Low occupancy and mass cancellation have forced the Tejas Express, the first train service to be operated privately by Indian Railway Catering And Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC), to stop operation as coronavirus continues to play havoc.
While the Lucknow-New Delhi-Lucknow Tejas Express will remain cancelled from 23 November and the Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Ahmedabad service will remain cancelled from 24 November due to less demand, there are about 700 trains including holiday specials that are operational, facilitating passengers movement across the country.
"We will review its decision after seeing the occupancy level of other trains of Indian Railways operating in both these routes," said a senior IRCTC official.
Tejas Express, a premier service, was started by IRCTC on 4 October last year on the Lucknow-Delhi-Lucknow route and on 19 January this year on the Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Ahmedabad route.
However, entire passenger operations were suspended since 19 March this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The service resumed gradually amid the pandemic, catering to public demand.
Tejas Express resumed operations from 17 October but only 20 to 30 per cent out of the total 736 seats were occupied, as against a 50-80 per cent occupancy rate before the spread of coronavirus.
Since the occupancy rate of these two trains was between 20 per cent and 30 per cent on an average, it was not feasible to run the premier service, said the IRCTC official.
Meanwhile, railways has converted 100 Covid coaches into regular passenger coaches and will be pressed into service as holiday special trains.
Earlier, railways had converted regular non-AC coaches into hospital beds for Covid patients.
"Since there is a demand for more holiday specials during Deepavali and Chhat festivals, we have kept five trains with 20 re-converted coaches each ready as a stand-by arrangement. Since these coaches, which were converted into hospital beds for Covid patients, were lying idle as not many of them were occupied with infected persons, we decided to use these coaches for festival trains," said a senior Railway Ministry official.
IRCTC, the Railways' catering arm, is the first corporate entity to run the Tejas Express services.
IRCTC had issued guidelines for how these trains were to function — every alternate seat on the two trains will be kept vacant to ensure social distancing and passengers will be thermally screened before entering the coach and not allowed to exchange their seats once seated — the official said.
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