Demand had increased with number of reserved passengers increasing from 5 lakh in last month to 13 lakh this month: Railway Board Chairman
The railways were making all efforts to ramp up the passenger service and would begin running 100 more trains in the next 5-6 days owing to an increase in demand, Railway Board Chairman and CEO Suneet Sharma said on Tuesday.
The railways were currently running 889 Special Mail Express trains every day on an average.
“We want to normalise services as soon as possible…we had operationalised about 1,500 trains before the second wave of the pandemic. However, due to the pandemic and restrictions on movement in various States, we faced challenges,” Mr. Sharma said. The railways had gradually started increasing the number following discussions with States, he noted.
Since there were lockdowns in some States, the railways were in discussion with them and monitoring the demand for more trains. “We will try to run normal services as soon as possible. However, given the pandemic situation, it is not possible to provide a timeline,” Mr. Sharma stated.
The demand for trains had increased with the number of reserved passengers increasing from 5 lakh in the last month to 13 lakh this month.
Asked about COVID-19 vaccination of employees, Mr. Sharma said about 6.5 lakh employees have been vaccinated. “Our about 12 lakh employees are our biggest resource. We are talking to States, some have also agreed to vaccinate railway employees, especially in the 18-44 age bracket, on priority.”
Replying to a query, he said so far about 2,600 employees have succumbed to COVID-19. However, the number of daily infections currently had fallen to about 100-150. In early May, the number stood at about 1,000. Currently, about 3,500-4,000 railway employees were infected and being treated.
Death on track
Reacting to RTI-based reports that 8,733 people died on railway track between January and December 2020, when limited train services were in operation, he said these deaths were not “railway accidents” but “deaths by trespassing”.
The railways had been taking several steps to prevent such deaths, including the construction of additional 182 foot over bridges, 168 road over bridges and 951 road under bridges in 2020-21. All 20,375 manned level crossing gates on the broad-gauge line have been eliminated, he claimed.
“The deaths that are being mentioned are purely deaths by trespassing. It has nothing to do with the Railways,” he added.
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