After converting train coaches into isolation wards and placing them across various stations in Delhi, railway officials are now exploring ways to bring down the temperature inside these non-AC isolation coaches to make them habitable.
This comes after officials, following an inspection carried out at Adarsh Nagar railway station where 24 isolation coaches were placed, pointed out that the insides of the coaches were very hot, and will be only suitable for Covid patients if cooling arrangements are made.
The Railway Board has tasked its 16 zonal railways to convert 5,000 coaches of old ICF make into isolation coaches, of which about 500 are being placed at various stations in Delhi and are likely to be used soon. In an inspection carried on June 17 by District Magistrate Deepak Shinde, it was observed that the temperature inside was very high (45 degrees Celsius), and the fact that these non-AC coaches were not placed under shade added to the heat. He added that the ceiling fan inside the coaches had no cooling effect.
The Railways had chosen to use non-AC coaches to be converted into isolation coaches as air conditioned coaches were believed to aid the spread of the virus.
At Anand Vihar railway station, where the most of the 267 coaches are placed, railway authorities are conducting trials using aluminum bubble sheets to cover the roof of these coaches. According to railway officials, the air gap between the two layers of the aluminium sheet will help in bringing down the temperature. Another official pointed out that with monsoon around the corner, the rains will further help in bringing down the ambient temperature inside the coaches. Divisional Railway Manager for Delhi, S C Jain, said, “We are conducting some trials and hoping that it will bring down the temperature by at least two to three degrees celsius.”
Apart from the high temperature, Shinde in his letter pointed out the lack of preparedness at Adarsh Nagar station, with no area created for donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical staff, no barricading around platform number 5 where these isolation coaches were placed, and a need to improve the approach road to the station for movement of ambulances.
When contacted, Deepak Shinde said, “The observations made during the inspection have been pointed out to the Railways and they are working on it.” He did not elaborate on the issues.
Railway officials added that over the past four days, several arrangements have been made at the station, including a separate area for donning and doffing PPEs, equipping the coaches with WiFi and CCTV cameras, and a special control room for management of these coaches and a dedicated officer for it. All the coaches have been equipped with a battery back-up to ensure that the fans function at all times.
On Saturday, the Railways held a joint inspection with district administration at Anand Vihar station where 267 coaches have been placed, while another 50 coaches are at Shakurbasti railway station. Railways further maintained that while they were providing the infrastructure in the form of these coaches, the medical and para-medical staff will be provided by the state administration.
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