On Monday, the Indian Railways allowed railways bookings to resume, around 45 days after the country went into lockdown at the end of March amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
While passenger train bookings were slated to resume from 4 pm for a total of 15 trains for different destinations that will leave New Delhi on Tuesday, the irctc.co.in website crashed soon after. In a later update, the IRCTC said that the booking for special passenger trains will start at 6 pm.
On Monday, the Ministry of Railways announced that all passengers were being advised to download and use the Aarogya Setu application. Not only that, but passengers will have to bring their own bedding, if they choose to travel in such comfort.
"All passengers are advised to download and use the Aarogya Setu application. No Linen, blankets and curtains shall be provided inside the train. Passengers are advised to carry their own linen for the travel," an official release said.
These trains will not have all the coaches a typical long distance train does. News agency ANI quoted the Railways to say that these special trains will have only air conditioned compartments, that is, First, Second and Third AC. However, as officials informed, the temperature inside these coaches would be "suitably regulated".
According to the standard operating procedure (SOP) released by the Ministry of Home Affairs, only asymptomatic and confirmed ticket holders will be allowed to travel, and will be allowed to board only after compulsory screening. Additionally, only those with confirmed e-tickets would be allowed into the station. Alongside maintaining social distancing norms, the Railway Ministry has said that it will ensure that passengers are provided with hand sanitiser at stations and in coaches.
In an order, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said all passengers will have to wear face masks and observe social distancing norms during while entering a station and during travel.
The fare structure for the 'Special Trains' shall be as applicable for the regular time-tabled Rajdhani trains. No catering charges shall be included in the fare and provision for prepaid meal booking, e-catering shall be disabled. Instead, the IRCTC would make provisions to provide passengers with "limited eatables and packaged drinking water on payment basis".
(With inputs from agencies)
According to the railways, these special trains which have been started presently, will have only air-conditioned classes i.e.
Only confirmed e-tickets shall be booked and no unreserved tickets (UTS) shall be permitted.
"Only online E-Ticketing will be done through IRCTC website or through Mobile App. No tickets will be booked across the reservation counter on any Railway Station. Booking of tickets through 'agents', (both IRCTC Agents and Railway Agents) shall not be permitted. Maximum Advance Reservation Period (ARP) will be of maximum 7 days," read the release.
"Only confirmed e-tickets shall be booked. Booking of RAC/Waiting list ticket and on board booking by ticket checking staff shall not be permitted. Current booking, tatkal and premium tatkal booking shall not be permitted. No Unreserved tickets (UTS) shall be permitted," it said.
"However, IRCTC shall make provision for . Information to this effect shall be made available to passengers during time of booking ticket. Passengers are encouraged to carry their own food and drinking water. Dry, ready-to-eat food and bottled water shall be provided on demand, inside the trains on payment basis." All passengers will be compulsorily screened at the station and only asymptomatic passengers are allowed to enter /board the train.
"Only passengers with Confirmed tickets shall be allowed to enter the Railway station. All passengers shall be wearing face covers/masks at the entry and during travel. The passengers shall reach the station at-least 90 minutes in advance to facilitate thermal screening at the station. Only passengers who are found asymptomatic will be permitted to travel. Passengers shall observe social distancing both at the station and on trains. On arrival at their destination, the travelling passengers will have to adhere to such health protocols as are prescribed by the destination state/UT," read the release.
The Ministry of Railways said that online cancellation shall be permitted up to 24hrs before scheduled departure of train and no cancellation permitted less than 24 hrs before departure of train. Cancellation charge shall be 50 per cent of fare.
As per the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines, the movement of the passenger(s), as well as the driver of the vehicle transporting the passenger(s) to and fro the Railway Station, shall be allowed on the basis of the confirmed e-ticket. (ANI)