March 31, 2020 4:45:36 am
To help local hospitals deal with an increased number of COVID-19 cases, the Railway Board (RB) will convert a total of 20,000 coaches into isolation wards. On Monday, the board said 17 zonal railways have been directed to convert 5,000 coaches in the first phase of the initiative. In Mumbai, the Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) will convert 482 and 410 coaches, respectively, into isolation wards.
The directive was issued after prototypes were prepared by five zonal railways, following a video conference on March 25. The Indian Railways has been allocated around Rs 100 crore by the Centre from its COVID-19 fund for the work.
Of the 5,000 coaches to be converted in the first phase, south-central railway (CSR) will work on 482 coaches and south-east central railway (SECR) on 111 coaches, officials said.
According to zonal railways, the instructions have been issued after consultation with the Armed Force medical service, medical department of zonal railways, and Ayushman Bharat.
The railways has been asked to use non-AC Link Hofmann Bush (LHB) coaches, which are preferably 15 years old, for the purpose. Each quarantine coach will have nine cabins, with the first cabin towards the bathroom to be separated using two curtains and earmarked as storage or paramedic area. Two oxygen cylinders will also be provided with appropriate clamping facilities in this area.
One of the two toilets, which has a pan, will be covered and converted into a bathroom with a bucket, mug and soap dispenser. Each of the eight cabins will be equipped with adequate charging points for laptops and three dustbins – red, yellow and blue in colour- with appropriate garbage bags. The windows of the coaches are to be covered in mosquito nets, while the roof of the coach, as well as its sides, will be covered in bamboo mats to isolate it from the heat.
A senior RB official said, “Zonal railways have been asked to give a time period that they will require to convert the assigned number of coaches into these quarantine/isolation facilities, and start the work immediately.”
On CR, the work is being undertaken by Matunga workshop, while in WR it will be done by Parel and Bhavnagar. In WR, the work will be carried out at Mahalaxmi workshop, which will do 40 coaches, and Lower Parel workshop that will do another 60 coaches. The conversion of each of these coaches will cost Rs 2 lakhs, officials said. A WR official said, “Most of these coaches will be developed in Mumbai itself.”
Railway officials were first asked to look for outside charging points to provide electric supply to the coaches when parked or in the way side. A stock of the pantry car is also being done to provide food for those who will be in these isolation facilities.
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