During times like these, traveling anywhere is a risk, not only to the health of you and your family, but also to the society at large. However, we understand that some people would have no other option but to travel due to their own circumstances. So if there’s any situation which requires you to travel from one city or state to another, trains could be an option for you. Although, it’s important to know how to take trains during covid.
Currently, trains are more significant as a part of essential services and are certainly operational. However, Indian Railways don’t function like they used to before the pandemic. There are also some government protocols you have to adhere to. At the same time, you will have to take all the necessary precautions and be a responsible citizen. If you’re wondering what the rules are like, here’s a comprehensive guide on how to take trains during covid.
The trains that are in service in India during the coronavirus outbreak, are referred to as Special Trains or ShramikSpecial, connecting important cities across India. In the month of May, the special trains first started out from the station of New Delhi that connected to 15 vital cities of the country. The course of these trains was set to be daily, weekly or twice a week. These trains have no catering services, only a few provide beverages, packaged drinking water bottles, ready to eat etc.
Currently, there is only a limited number of conventionally approved express or mail trains in different parts of the country. By the mid of September, a total count of over 300 trains were running, connecting 16 states of India. The lists of the Shramik Special keep increasing with each month. You can check their availability and timings as updates regarding them are posted on the portal of IRCTC, under “Corona virus Special Trains For Passengers”.
Services of over 500 regular trains and 10,000 stoppages have been halted in a time of need-based travel. With trains in India now having much lesser occupancy, the Ministry of Railways plans to cut around 50% of the regular trains and merge them with the popular ones. The trains having to cover long distances will not have any stoppages within 20kms unless it is one of the major cities of the country.
Booking Tickets During The Outbreak
During a time of social distancing, the booking tickets at the reservations counters in the railway stations are not being allowed. The portal of IRCTC website or via an app in your mobile can be used to purchase your E-tickets. The Advanced Reservation Period or ARP can be for an extended period of maximum 30 days. People under the waiting lists are not allowed to board the train or even inside the premises of the station.
Unlike before how the charts of assigned seats with coaches were prepared only 30mins prior to departure, the first chart will be out 4 hours before the scheduled departure of the train. The second chart will be out 2 hours ahead of the scheduled departure of the train. Between the preparation of both the charts, only tickets being booked online is permitted.
The PRS or limited number of reservation counters will be accessible for availing permits for any quotas that could have been availed in a regular train. Following are the rules that prohibits purchasing tickets under the given circumstance:
Any booking of tickets through the help of either Railway Agents or IRCTC Agents are prohibited.
No tickets are currently being issued for the UTS (unreserved) category or after a passenger boards the train.
The trains that are running do not allow any booking under tatkal or premium tatkal.
Concession And Refunds
The concessions categories that are currently available in these trains are limited: 4 groups from Divyangjan concession and patients concessions in 11 groups. The rule placed on cancellation and refund of tickets in 2015 is still applicable.
Cancelation of the ticket a day prior to the train’s departure is allowed. In any case, during the screenings process, if a party is held unfit to board the train, a full refund of the ticket is still in place to:
The PNR booked under a Single passenger
Every other passenger that was booked under the same PNR of the said unfit party and does not wish to travel anymore.
Mandated Guidelines That Are To Be Followed
It is too soon to get back to the pre-pandemic stage. However, with the oncoming festive seasons, the demand for travel has increased in the past few weeks. The North Central Railways have implemented many features like the QR based ticket scanner that allows no contact ticket checking and plasma air purifier in the coaches of the train. Apart from these, here are some guidelines that need to be followed that are issued by the IRCTC:
Only people with e-tickets that have been confirmed are allowed in the station premises.
Passengers require to reach the railway station 90 minutes ahead of their scheduled departure in order to go through mandatory protocols like screenings.
The passengers are required to download the Aarogya Setu app in their respective mobile phones. The features in the app are utilized to raise awareness regarding Covid-19. One of the features of the app includes using the device’s bluetooth and GPS as a tracking device to give updates regarding nearby infected areas and such.
Only people showing no symptoms will be allowed to board the train. While traveling, it is compulsory to keep your face covered with a mask at all times.
Passengers are advised to pack their own food and beddings as they will no longer be provided the same. The list of necessities might include blanket, pillow, an eye mask and even ear plugs. For short trips, you can always pack snacks to fill you up. Longer journeys require substantial portions of food.
Extra Precautions That You Can Take
As commuters, it is time to reevaluate how to put out safety first. There are things that you can do on your part to make your travel safer. Along with mandatory masks, sanitizers and the promotion of social distancing, here are some tips that you need to keep in mind while travelling using a train during the pandemic:
With a respiratory disease like the Covid-19, where more people talk, cough and breathe the same air as you, proper ventilation matters now more than ever. Choose a window seat or berth, if possible. The more open windows and ventilation, the better.
Avoid any closed space routes like subways while on your way to reach the railway station. Comply with the authorities that are doing their job by going through the screening processes.
Steer clear from public booths provided in the station. Defer from printing your ticket at the railway station by trying to download it on your mobile beforehand.
Refrain from getting in contact with public utilities (like doors, handrails, tables or net carriers) that are provided in the railway station and in the train. It is still yet to know whether the virus spreads through a contaminated surface or not
It is always recommended to carry your own disinfecting products. Once you get aboard, try to sanitize your assigned seat and personal space as much as you can.
Do not unnecessarily crowd near the door or get up from your assigned seat. Try to be vocal about the passengers who tend not to follow the mandated protocols
In any case that you feel like you are showing symptoms of the virus, do not discard it as a flu. Get consulted by a doctor and abstain from travelling for your and others’ safety.
For different reasons, staying locked inside your home cannot be possible for everyone. We understand that it isn’t easy to put life on hold after a while. So if you really have to take a train in India during the pandemic, we urge you to be responsible by following proper guidelines and basic hygiene. Don’t underestimate the importance of wearing a mask and carrying sanitizers.