Railways in mission mode to prepare Covid-19 isolation coaches
The Indian Railways has converted 2,500 of its coaches into special Covid-19 isolation wards with 40,000 isolations within a week with an average of 375 coaches converted per day.
The national carrier plans to modify a total of 5,000 coaches with 80,000 beds in the first phase. In total, it plans to modify 20,000 coaches that can accommodate nearly 3.2 lakh beds for isolation wards. The work is being carried out at 133 locations across railways’ workshops in the country. The railway board has suggested the isolation coaches be used in rural areas where there is no access to hospitals.
“In times of lockdown, when manpower resources are limited and have to be rationalised and rotated, different zones of railways have almost done an impossible task of so many conversions in such a small span of time. With the conversion of around 2,500 coaches, 40,000 isolation beds are now ready for contingency. Once the prototype was approved, conversion action was started quickly by zonal railways,” the ministry of railways said.
It may be noted that these isolation coaches are being prepared only as a contingency and to supplement the efforts of the ministry of health in fighting coronavirus, it added. These coaches are equipped as per medical advisories issued. Efforts are being made to ensure best possible stay and medical supervision as per norms.
The first prototype was prepared by the Northern Railways, it is equipped with 10 isolation wards per coach. The coaches are being sanitised before and after they are converted into isolation wards. “The hospital isolation coaches will have provision of air curtains in each compartment. We have converted two toilets into bathrooms by plugging the toilet pan and (installing) proper flooring. We have removed the middle berth,” a Northern Railways official said.
The national transporter has also begun manufacturing of low cost Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) after two of its samples made by Northern Railways workshop were cleared by DRDO. The Indian railways is planning to make 100 PPEs per day to meet shortage of production in the country.
Railways has also begun developing ‘disinfection tunnels’ or fumigation tunnels. They are designed in a manner where nozzles spray one part per million sodium hypochlorite solution, as people walk for a duration of between three to five seconds inside the tunnel. The Indian railways has said the tunnel costs around Rs 10,000 with a capacity of 500 litres, the disinfection tunnel will work uninterrupted for 16 hours, requiring refilling only once a day.
The Indian railways has also been tasked with using its large manufacturing and locomotive production units and workshops for manufacturing essential medical equipment hospital beds and stretchers, among others. The national transporter has issued directions to this effect to its production units -- the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai and Diesel Loco Works in Varanasi, among others.
The Rail Coach Factory (RCF), Kapurthala, has manufactured a prototype low-cost ventilator design. It has now been sent to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for testing and approval.