New Delhi: While passenger trains resuming journeys from New Delhi Railway Station from Tuesday heralds a tentative return to normal operations, the directive to passengers to arrive early, enter only from the Paharganj side of the station and wear face masks underline the different circumstances in which rail services are being restored. The station premises were thoroughly disinfected on Monday. Only a valid ticket will allow entry to the station, where each passenger will undergo thermal screening and only those asymptomatic for Covid-19 will be permitted to board a train.
“Passengers are encouraged to carry their own food and drinking water. Dry, ready-to-eat food and bottled water will be provided on demand in the trains on payment basis,” an official revealed. “Other arrangements in the train include hands-free water and soap dispensers to reduce the risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus. Each passenger will have to maintain social distancing on the platform and on the trains.”
The official said the boarding will be carried out in an orderly manner with a single passenger being allowed to enter the compartment at a time. “Passengers have been asked to reach the station at least 90 minutes before the departure of the train. Those who come late may face problems because all individuals have to undergo testing,” the official said.
The passengers will have to use the entrance to New Delhi Railway Station on Chelmsford Road, more popularly called the Paharganj side. “We will use the Ajmeri Gate entry exclusively for Shramik special trains. Passenger arriving at the Ajmeri Gate side cannot board the passenger trains,” the official said.
Railway officials said the trains were being scheduled so as not to cause gatherings on the platform. However, Railway Protection Force personnel will be deployed for crowd management and to ensure social distancing.
For the moment, 15 pairs of trains (30 return journeys) will meet the special passenger demands and will consist entirely of the air-conditioned First, Second and Sleeper AC classes. These trains will connect New Delhi Railway Station with locations like Dibrugarh, Agartala, Howrah, Patna, Bilaspur, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Secunderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Madgaon, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Jammu Tawi. Railway officials said the on-route stoppages have been kept to a minimum.
Like the Rajdhani services, with their fewer stoppages and, therefore, faster journeys, these special trains too will have premium fares, excluding the Rajdhani’s regular catering charges. They will have an advance reservation period of seven days, which means one can only book a ticket seven days in advance of a journey, unlike 60-120 days in normal times. No RAC/waiting list or Tatkal tickets will be issued.
Northern Railway will also ensure that after a train arrives or departs from the railway station, the entire premises will be sanitised, and a special team has been created only for this work. “Each time the passengers disembark or enter a train, the benches, chairs, flooring and handles will all be disinfected to meet the required sanitary standards. This should greatly reduce the risk of virus transmission,” explained an official.