Mumbai: Unused COVID coaches go back in ‘sleeper’ mode

In view of the pandemic, the Indian Railways had converted several coaches into Covid Care Centres -- 892 coaches on Central and Western Railways. Almost a year later, the railway authorities in Mumbai have started re-converting these unused Covid Care coaches into normal ones. They were simply parked unused on rail sidings all these months.

The two railways together created isolation units meant for treating Covid-19 patients in these coaches for which they spent close to Rs 6 crore on these 892 coaches. Now, even though there is a slow and steady spike in the number of Covid cases, the state government and Indian Railways are reconverting the isolation units back into regular Sleeper coaches.

According to sources in Central Railway, the authorities have already begun work of restoring the isolation units at more than 40 percent. “Since November, we began this work on these isolation coaches to be converted into regular non-AC Sleeper coaches,” said a CR official.

The CR had set up 482 Covid Care Coaches at a cost of Rs 3.8 crore and now close to 200 of these coaches have been refurbished into regular coaches. The CR officials said that there is nominal cost involved in redoing it into normal coaches as they are simply removing the paraphernalia and replacing them with seats. Railway officials said that it’s incorrect to say that funds have been wasted because it’s a contingency plan.

Likewise the WR too has begun the process of redoing these Covid coaches into its original avatar of a regular Sleeper coach. “We have begun the plan of reconverting these Covid coaches into normal Sleeper coaches and internal discussions are on,” said a WR official. The WR authorities transformed 410 coaches at a cost of Rs 2 crore as a backup option for taking in Covid-19 patients.

Owing to augmentation of health infrastructure to fight Covid-19, the need for these isolation coaches didn’t happen. In March 2020, the Railway Board directed the zonal railways to convert Sleeper coaches into isolation units across the country. Over the past few weeks, there are substantial numbers of passengers travelling in long distance trains. Passengers arriving by trains in Maharashtra from states like Kerala, Goa, Delhi, Karnataka and Gujarat; is expected to happen.

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