Foot operated flushes, ionised AC air, surveillance cameras: Railways customises coaches for post-COVID times

The first two coaches that rolled out from the Railway Coach Factory in Kapurthala also have fixtures coated with titanium dioxide and the provision for plasma air equipment in AC ducts.

Published: 14th July 2020 02:01 PM  |   Last Updated: 14th July 2020 02:06 PM   |  A+A-

A health worker sprays disinfectant on railways coaches modified into isolation wards to take care of COVID-19 cases at Shakurbasti in New Delhi on Thursday June 25 2020. (Photo | Parveen Negi/EPS)


NEW DELHI: From foot-operated soap dispensers and toilet flushes to door handles manoeuvred with the forearm and handrails coated with anti-microbial copper, the Railways' new coaches for post corona travel launched on Tuesday come packed with features to help stave off infection.

The first two coaches that rolled out from the Railway Coach Factory in Kapurthala also have fixtures coated with titanium dioxide and the provision for plasma air equipment in AC ducts to sterilise interiors using ionised air, officials said.

Giving details of the two coaches, one air-conditioned and other non-air conditioned, they said the use of hands to navigate washrooms and other parts has been brought down to a minimum, making them "almost hands-free".

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal also indicated that the new coaches could be the new normal.

"Future Ready Railway: Designed to fight Coronavirus, Railways creates first Post COVID Coach' with handsfree amenities, copper-coated handrails & latches, plasma air purification, Titanium di-oxide coating."

"For COVID-Free passenger journey!," he said in a tweet.

The features, detailed in a booklet circulated by the Railways, include a host of foot-operated fixtures – including taps, soap dispensers, lavatory doors, flush valves and door latches.

Outside the toilet is a wash basin with a foot operated tap forearm.

Besides, the compartment doors have handles operated with the forearm.

The Railways has also installed copper coated handrails and latches as copper degrades the virus which lands on it within a few hours, the booklet said.

¨Copper also has anti microbial properties. Thus, when the virus lands on it, the ion blasts the pathogen and destroys the DNA and RNA inside it,¨ it said.

The coaches will also have the provision of plasma air equipment in the AC duct that will sterilise the coaches using ionised air to make it COVID-19 free.

The "nano structured titanium dioxide" coating is another special feature.

¨This is an eco-friendly water-based coating that kills viruses, bacteria, mould, and fungal growth and most importantly enhances indoor air quality. It is non-toxic and approved by food testing laboratory of the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) It is considered to be a safe substance, and is harmless for humans,¨ it said.

The coating has been applied on washbasins, lavatory, seats and berths, snack table, glass window, floor, virtually every contact surface.

The effective life of the coating is 12 months.

The Railways is currently running 15 pairs of AC trains on Rajdhani routes and 100 pairs of mail and express trains.

A few Shramik Special trains are also running daily.

The Railways on Tuesday floated a fresh tender for coronavirus surveillance thermal cameras, removing a provision that led to Indian firms alleging that it favoured a Chinese firm while making it mandatory for vendors to list the country of origin of each item.

RailTel, a Railway PSU had floated the tender last month for AI-based surveillance cameras that measure body temperatures of individuals and even detects whether a person is wearing a mask or not.

This tender was scrapped two weeks back after receiving feedback from vendors that specifications mentioned for the procurement of the equipment may have favoured a Chinese company.

Indian vendors, in letters to RailTel, raised concerns that the specifications mentioned in the tender favoured Chinese company Hikvision, one of the world's largest video surveillance companies which currently dominates India's CCTV market.

They said the technology -- DeepInMind -- which is part of the specification for the cameras and mentioned in the tender document, is a proprietary feature of Hikvision.

The new tender has done away with this technology as a requirement, but retained other significant specification of the blackbody temperature -- the ability of the cameras to accurately measure temperatures emitted by a person to say whether a person has fever or not.

Additionally it has asked vendors to name the origin country of all equipment that they supply.

"Bidder shall mention country of manufacturing against each item in SOR (schedule of requirement).

In case country of manufacturing is not mentioned by the bidder, RailTel Reserves the right to reject his offer.

Moreover, GoI's Present as well as Future Guideline regarding foreign country material will be applicable," the new tender documents said.

The PSU has also also listed features of the cameras to include software with simultaneous temperature screening for multiple persons with alarm(indoor), contact-free mask detection, alarms on people without masks, identity verification and stranger alarm, that is confirming identity, even with mask.

Over the last few weeks, the Railways has had to deal with issues related to involvement of Chinese firms in tenders floated by the national transporter which comes after a violent face-off between India and China in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh last month.

Following a standoff with the neighbouring country, the national transporter had cancelled a Rs 471-crore signalling and telecommunication work for a stretch of 417-km on the Kanpur-Deen Dayal Upadhyay (DDU) section by a Chinese company.

A Chinese JV has also emerged as one of the bidders for a tender floated for manufacturing 44 Train 18 sets.

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