Railways to run ‘Oxygen Express’ trains via green corridors for bulk supply
The Indian Railways will deploy first-of-a-kind ‘Oxygen Express’ trains over the next few days to transport Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) and oxygen cylinders in bulk along key corridors, amid high demand from states grappling with the second wave of the Covid-19 health crisis.
“Railways is leaving no stone unturned in the battle against Covid-19. We will be running Oxygen Express trains using green corridors to supply oxygen in bulk and rapidly to patients,” Union railways minister Piyush Goyal tweeted.
Tentatively, a movement plan has been made for dispatching 10 empty tankers on Monday; the railway ministry said adding that the Transport Secretary of Maharashtra has assured to provide the tankers.
“On April 17th, a meeting was held between Railway Board officials and State Transport Commissioners and representatives of industry on the subject of issues related to transportation of Liquid Medical Oxygen. It was decided that the tankers would be organized by the Transport Commissioner, Maharashtra. These empty tankers would be moved from Kalamboli/Boisar, Railway stations in and near Mumbai, and sent to Vizag and Jamshedpur/Rourkela/Bokaro, for loading of liquid medical oxygen tankers from there,” the railway ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
“Zonal Railways have been informed regarding the demands from state governments. CFTMs and PCOMs are in touch with the Industry and state governments. Railway Board has directed the concerned GMs to be fully prepared and proactively assist the state and Central Government Agencies in movement of oxygen by rail,” it added.
With several states reporting a shortage of oxygen, the Centre on Friday directed them to ensure uninterrupted movement of medical oxygen carrying vehicles along their borders and said they must not impose any curbs on production and supply of the essential public health commodity anywhere.
The railway ministry on Friday approved transportation of liquid medical oxygen in cryogenic tankers under its Roll on-Roll off model as a special case following a request from the Maharashtra government. “A request had been received from the principal secretary in the public health department of Maharashtra government for transport of medical oxygen in cryogenic containers. The matter has been examined. Competent authority has approved the transport of liquid medical oxygen in cryogenic containers,” it said. It also summed up the charges to be levied for the service, the railway board said in its circular issued late on Friday.
The move comes days after Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking the Centre’s support in addressing the shortage of oxygen in the state. Maharashtra, crippled by the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, is facing a crisis with the medical and health infrastructure collapsing under the weight of rising cases and deaths.
The circular also said that the staff accompanying liquid oxygen trucks to be loaded on the Ro-Ro service will be charged second class ticket for the journey and only two people will be allowed to accompany the truck. The empty flow direction of the containers will also be charged by the railways.