WR keeps the wheels running to ensure essential commodities available across India
As the country expanded its measures to contain the deadly Coronavirus, Indian Railways had to stop its services in an iconic decision to cancel passenger services till 31st March, 2020. The lifeline of the country has come to a halt but not for long as only passenger carrying trains have been stopped as a serious measure to fight the spread of Coronavirus and goods trains are still running. The Railways might not be running at present for the public, but it continues to work at large. The operations & maintenance staff, engineering & medical staff and the RPF are at the forefront delivering their duties with valour and dedication.
The train never stops even in tough times: Engineering, Operations & Maintenance
As stated by Shri Alok Kansal – General Manager of Western Railway, despite the general perception among the people that the Railways has stopped working, all other activities related to Railways continue to run. Indian Railways is committed towards to maintain the supply of essential commodities across all parts of country and is ensuring that the movement of freight trains takes place so that coal reaches the power houses, food grains are available in the granaries and all essential commodities are available across India. Goods train carrying essential commodities are running as per schedule.
Indian Railways has also slashed the demurrage and wharfage rates for goods and parcel at half of the prescribed rates till 31st March, 2020. The validity of the rate of policies pertaining to goods/container traffic has also been extended by one month that is up to 30th April, 2020. No haulage charge shall be levied for movement of empty containers/empty flat wagons from 24th March to 30th April, 2020. The free time for loading/unloading of wagons and free time for removal of consignment from railway premises has been increased to double of the prescribed free time till 31st March, 2020.
Here are some of the efforts made by Western Railway to keep the lifeline running even in tough times:
• A total of 130 rakes have been used to supply essential commodities such as POL (Petroleum, Oil & Lubricants), salt, cement, coal and containers were loaded amounting to 0.31 million tones.
• During the lockdown on 22nd & 23rd March, 2020, 376 freight trains were interchanged with other railways including 177 trains handed over and 199 trains had taken over at different interchange points.
• Despite shortage of labour, all efforts are being made to unload important stock.
• Our dedicated staff which are attending their duties are observing all precautions such as maintaining adequate distance and using sanitizers while on work.
• During this period, 4 Millennium Parcel rakes of Parcel Vans/Railway Milk Tankers (RMTs) have been sent to different parts of the country to cope the demands of essential items:
– Ex Dahanu Road to Bhimsen : Dry Grass
– Ex Kakariya to Bhimsen near Jhansi : Amul milk products
– Ex Palanpur to Hind Terminal (Palwal) – Liquid milk
– Ex Karambeli to New Guwahati – General goods
Kansal further stated that for running these trains, Operating and Maintenance staff needs to reach their workplaces. Railway men have shown exceptional courage in these challenging times when humanity is fighting COVID -19 and are performing their duties with utmost sincerity. Approximately, 1200 Loco pilots and Assistant Loco Pilots have worked various goods trains on 23rd March 2020 across various divisions namely Mumbai, Vadodara, Ratlam, Ahmedabad, Rajkot and Bhavnagar divisions of Western Railway.
Crew booking lobbies, Loco Sheds, Loco Controllers in various divisions are working tirelessly round the clock to ensure safe and efficient train operations. More than 3000 gatemen are attending to their duties at level crossing gates round the clock, approx. 1000 keymen are checking every inch of the tracks on a daily basis, 50 plus teams are testing every inch of rails in track for any internal defect and trackmen continue to ensure safety of these tracks.
Inspite of workshops being shut, Pratapnagar workshop continues to repair defective Milk Tankers with skeleton staff to ensure that there is no hindrance to the supply of milk to various parts of the country. The emergency staff at various Wagon Depots is ensuring proper and timely inspection & maintenance of all the freight wagon rakes. The ROH (Routine Overhaul) activity at various depots are also being continued to ensure that there never shortage in availability of freight stock.
Besides their commitment & courage, safety measures have been taken to ensure that the staff is able to carry out their work in a safe and healthy environment. Measures such as, frequency of visual inspections being held have been increased, keeping in mind general safety of public and to remove of any shortcoming, entire railway track is being inspected by key men every day in the morning hours. Ultrasonic testing of rails is being conducted to ascertain defects in rails that cannot be visually examined. Welding of free joints, maintenance of points and crossings and renewal of rails is being undertaken regularly. Gatekeepers have been instructed to remain alert to ensure smooth passage of rail traffic from level crossing and to notice defects in rolling stocks. Higher officials have taken appropriate action and inspecting track regularly to ensure movement of train.
The Medical Department of Western Railway is rigorously working in fighting the deadly pandemic and has taken various the following measures/steps to counter the transmission of COVID-19:
• All emergency medical services are being continued.
• All elective surgeries & evaluations have been deferred.
• Awareness about preventing spread of COVID-19 and the importance of the curfew is being explained to all general public.
• Isolation wards and quarantine beds have been kept ready.
• All the Personal Protective Equipment has been procured.
• Additional ventilators are being procured and doctors & staff are being trained for managing patient on ventilators.
• Doctors and staff have been trained for taking care of COVID-19 infected cases in isolation.
• A mock drill for management of COVID cases has been conducted.
• Availability of soap and sanitizers has been ensured in Health Units and Hospitals.
• Sanitization with disinfectants and hypochlorite solution is being done for High contact areas of hospitals and offices.
• Dedicated fever clinics are being run at hospitals for triaging suspected cases.
• The Dept. is constantly in touch with public health authorities for the latest guidelines & practices.
• Hydroxychloroquine prophylaxis will be given to Doctors, paramedical staff and high risk contacts as per ICMR guidelines.
• Health & wellness of staff coming to render essential services is being taken care of.
The Railway Protection Force (RPF) is not behind in its efforts to combat the Coronavirus pandemic while ensuring safety measures at stations and offices where work never ends. Various steps taken by Western Railway’s RPF are as under:
• Handling panic/distress call related to COVID-19.
• Ensuring queue formation while maintaining distance where required.
• Position of checking material for COVID-19 like thermometer, clops, mask sanitizer, liquid shop collected over Western Railway/RPF.
• Ensuring the smooth function of Zonal RPF control room.
• Supplying sanitizers at shops in Headquarter/Division offices.
• RPF staff has been deployed with proper precaution and using the mask at railway station over Western Railway.
• Vehicles ready in position for carrying essential duties.
• RPF barracks being regularly checked
• All field staff over Western Railway is updated of the latest developments and actions to ensure safety and prevention from Coronavirus.
Across the nation, in a bid to reduce the hardships & to protect the interest of contractual and outsourced staff engaged in providing services such as On Board House Keeping services (OBHS) in trains, sanitation, pantry cars, stations, offices and other commercial activities, Ministry of Railways – has decided that such staff will be treated as “on duty” and be paid accordingly during the period of suspension of Passenger services. Ministry of Railway also stated that this move will benefit at least 50,000 contractual & outsourced employees involved in providing services all over the Indian Railways.
Western Railway displays true spirit of “Work is Worship” even in the tough times of lockdown due to Coronavirus Pandemic and continues to serve the nation by lending its hand through essential service, be it freight traffic or medical facility. From security to engineering, Western Railway is always geared to face whatever may be the situation.