To tackle the shortage of hospital beds during the spike of coronavirus cases in May, the Indian Railway (IR) had converted 482 coaches into isolation units for Covid-19 patients, but till date not a single IR quarantine coach in Mumbai division has been used for coronavirus patients.
The Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) had converted 482 coaches, of which 125 are in Mumbai Division which are left unused.
The railways are still waiting for a request from the government to utilise these coaches.
Senior Railway officials said they have converted these coaches into isolation or quarantine coaches so that it will be utilised but it has been almost two months they are left unused. Till the pandemic is there, the Railways will keep these coaches as it is. “We will not convert these coaches into normal coaches as we don’t know when the cases will increase. Hence, we don’t want to take any chance. Looking at the current number of cases it might be utilised soon,” the railway official said.
Shalabh Goel, Divisional Railway Manager, CR said they have modified 125 coaches into isolation coaches spending Rs 13,000 to 13,500 each, but they did not receive any demand from the state government so far. “The day the state government asks us to provide the isolation coaches, we can sanitise and make those available wherever asked,” he said.
Senior officials from the state government said they are aware that the railway coaches are being converted into isolation coaches, but currently they do not require them as most of the hospitals and quarantine facilities are empty.
“We know cases are increasing but across Maharashtra only 20-25 per cent are critical patients who need hospitalisation. The rest are asymptomatic who have been home quarantined.
“Following which the use of a railway coach at this time is not a good decision. It is like a back-up plan as we expect cases might increase in future,” he said.