Railways say no threat of Covid-19 transmission from AC in coaches as train service resumes
As Indian Railways partially resumes operations today after nearly two months of lockdown, fears are mounting that the resumption of train services may further the spread of Covid-19.
Compounding these fears is the fact that thousands of passengers will be travelling in close proximity of each other, all sitting in centrally air-conditioned coaches.
A study by Chinese researchers had concluded that droplet transmission was prompted by air-conditioned ventilation. Not many other studies, however, have associated AC use with coronavirus spread.
The Indian Railways has now clarified that travelling in AC coaches poses no risk of coronavirus transmission.
Releasing a statement, Railways officials said, "As per the Ministry of Health guidelines, centralised AC is acceptable provided complete air change inside an AC coach takes place at least 12 times per hour."
"The Roof Mounted AC Package Unit (RMPU) system of Indian Railways AC coaches is designed to have a higher air replacement rate and we are ensuring that our system replaces air more than 12 times per hour as per these guidelines," the officials added.
Earlier, the RMPU system replaced air 5 times in an hour but now that process will be increased.
The officials also added, "Since no blankets are being given to passengers, the coach temperature has also been increased from the normal 23 degrees to 25 degrees. Both these measures are designed to provide a comfortable and safer journey."
Nearly two months after it suspended operations of passenger trains over the coronavirus crisis, the railways resumed services with 15 pair of trains on select routes from Tuesday.
The national transporter issued specific guidelines to passengers travelling on these trains which included asking them to carry their own food, linen, besides making it mandatory to wear face masks.
These special trains will have only AC classes i.e. first, second and third AC and the fares will be equivalent to Rajdhani trains. Over 80,000 passengers have booked tickets worth over Rs 16 crore on the special trains so far.
On May 12, three trains will begin from New Delhi terminating at Dibrugarh, Bengaluru and Bilaspur. One each will begin from Howrah, Rajendra Nagar (Patna), Bengaluru, Mumbai Central and Ahmedabad, all terminating at Delhi.
On Tuesday, the national transporter said installing the Aarogya Setu mobile application was mandatory for the passengers.