Even after the lockdown is lifted, railway stations and trains will have to follow certain guidelines to maintain social distancing at least for 90 days to start with. Sources said the North Western Railway (NWR) was awaiting for final directions from the railway board.
Authorities said many new practices including non-issuance of waitlisted tickets, hiked prices of platform tickets, no allotment of middle berths and things like thermal screening and sanitising are likely to be introduced.
According to sources, the railway board has been taking suggestions from various zones and its officers to know what measures can be put in place to ensure social distancing even after lockdown is over.
You will have to queue up to get on to trains at Egmore, Central
In just more than a week, when the lockdown is expected to be lifted and train services likely to resume, people will have to reach stations early and continue to maintain social distancing. In Chennai, Southern Railway has begun pasting stickers on the floor in front of ticket counters and on platforms at MGR Central and Egmore to specify spots for people to stand farther from one another to prevent crowdings.
The authorities are not sure about when the trains can start in a full-fledged manner, but have begun making preparations at the various stations to ensure the rules are not flouted. At Egmore railway station, yellow stickers have been pasted in front of ticket counters. On the platforms, yellow and white lines are to ensure people will be able to stand in a queue to board the train. Similar work is going on at MGR Central, said a senior railway official.
“Stickers have been pasted on platform 3 and work is going on at other platforms. Social distancing will be a key precaution. There is also a discussion on posting staff at the exits to spray sanitizers on the hands of people who walk out of the railway stations,” he added.
For a long time, even before the lockdown began, Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel have been ensuring that people form a queue to board unreserved compartments of express trains at Egmore railway station as people were jostling to get in. A similar queue system is likely to be introduced for people to board reserved coaches if there is crowding.
Railway authorities are discussing ways to prevent crowding inside the two main railway stations. On a usual day, platforms of Central and Egmore railway stations are packed with hundreds of people waiting to board trains while the waiting area and concourse is crammed with several transit passengers waiting for connecting trains.
Now, all staff inside stations will wear masks and gloves. Sources said it was unlikely that railways will start scheduled trains soon after lockdown is lifted. “There will be several passengers and visitors inside the stations at a time because scheduled trains depart and arrive back to back.
In all probability, special trains will be introduced to begin with at staggered timings so that there will not be much people inside a station,” he added. Officials are also thinking of ways to ensure social distancing inside coaches which may be a huge task as all berths on most trains have been sold out already for travel in May.