Updated: April 24, 2021 3:24:42 am
Facing an acute shortage of medical oxygen amid rising Covid cases, the state governments in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and UT Delhi have requested the Indian Railways to transport oxygen tankers from various plants across the country to their respective states.
The Railways launched the ‘Oxygen Express’ service for faster transportation of medical oxygen to states facing a shortage of life-saving gas. Maharashtra has already placed a request before the Railways for transportation of oxygen from Vizag and the train is now returning back to the state.
While UP is requisitioning oxygen from the Bokaro steel plant and the Jamnagar refinery in Gujarat, Delhi has requested oxygen to be lifted from the Rourkela steel plant in Odisha, officials said. Andhra Pradesh has made a request for oxygen to be transported from Angul in Odisha to Vijaywada.
“Various states are asking us for movement of oxygen by trains including. Just now we have received a request from Delhi to move oxygen from Rourkela and some other plants. The details are being worked out. We have told them (the Delhi government) to keep their tankers ready. Our wagons and locomotives are ready. Our ramps are ready at different locations in the NCR region. We expect the movement to take place shortly,” Railways Board Chairman and CEO Suneet Sharma said.
On other states sending similar requests, Sharma said, “We have already run one Express from Maharashtra to Vizag and it is now coming back. The second is requirement from UP which is being done from Bokaro. The train has already left Bokaro with three tankers. UP has put another request to move liquid oxygen from Reliance refinery in Jamnagar. We are in close touch with State, Western Railways and RIL to work this out. Andhra Pradesh has asked us to move tankers from Vijaywada to Angul in Odisha where there is a steel plant. We have already identified wagons and ramps from where tankers will be carried to Angul and then come back with oxygen. It should happen in the next couple of days.”
Both Delhi and UP, which have seen a massive surge in Covid-19 cases in the past couple of weeks, are facing a scarcity of medical oxygen. Delhi is particularly troubled with a massive shortfall of 220 MT in its oxygen demand. Many hospitals in Delhi have reported frequently running out of oxygen and patients dying for the lack of it.
On Friday morning, 25 critical patients at Sir Gangaram Hospital died after the facility ran out of oxygen. Hospitals have also started turning away patients citing lack of oxygen to help them.
In the wake of the crisis, the Centre had recently allowed industrial oxygen to be diverted for medical use even as the Railways started ‘Oxygen Express’ to carry oxygen tankers through green corridors in a bid to ensure faster transportation.
The first Oxygen Express left two days back from Mumbai to Vizag and is currently on its way back carrying seven tankers (112 MT) of oxygen. One tanker has 16 tonnes of payload. The train is supposed to reach Nagpur later in the day and then to Nashik and other places in the state.
“We are demanding more tankers so that all our rakes can be fully utilised. There is of course the challenge for states to get more tankers. But Railways is fully ready to meet all demands,” Sharma said.
The chairman said running the oxygen Express had been a unique challenge for the Railways as all necessary logistics had to be moved at a short notice. As most of the oxygen plants are in the eastern part of the country, trains have to move across the length and breadth of the country, sources said.
“Then the Railways had to map the entire route as large parts had ghats. New ramps had to be built and specific size tankers had to be identified which could pass through tunnels, platform canopy and overbridges. To manage their height, tyres of many tankers had to be deflated. Since oxygen is cryogenic, you cannot move at a very high speed. Curves and specific accelerations and decelerations had to be worked out,” Sharma said.
Over 93,000 workers infected
The Railways is facing a staff crunch with more than 93,000 employees testing positive over the last few weeks. The national transporter is rationalising its manpower to ensure its operations are not affected, at a time when migrants are rushing home and demands for oxygen-carrying trains, according to sources. (Express News Service)
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