NEW DELHI: With the suspension of passenger, mail and express train services, the Indian Railways is focusing on speeding up transportation of essential commodities across the country.
"The Indian Railways never stopped even during the war. Please understand the seriousness of the circumstance. Stay at home," the Ministry tweeted on Tuesday night.
Rajesh Dutt Bajpai, Executive Director, Ministry of Railways, said, around 9,000 freight trains were being run daily. "The Indian Railways is making all efforts to ensure availability of essential commodities, and uninterrupted freight services are being run despite of various restrictions due to Covid-19," he said.
Of the 891 rakes loaded by the national transporter on March 23, Bajpai said, 474 were for essential commodities, like grain, salt, edible oil, sugar, milk, fruits & vegetables, onion, coal and petroleum products. The rest 121 rakes were used for transporting iron ore, 48 for steel, 25 for cement, 28 for fertilizer and 106 rakes for containers, he added.
On Sunday, the railway announced suspension of passenger, mail and express trains --around 13,600 -- from Monday to March 31.
The Railway Ministry in a statement said during the lockdown in various states, railway employees, deployed at various goods sheds, stations and control offices, would continue to work 24X7 to ensure supply of essential items.
The Ministry said it was working in close coordination with the state governments for smooth handling of rakes of essential commodities without any delay, amidst various restriction imposed in the wake of Covid-19.
"Railways has slashed the demurrage and wharfage rates for goods and parcels by half of the prescribed rates till March 31," it said.
Free time for loading or unloading of wagons, and for removal of consignment from the railway premises has been increased to double of the prescribed free time till March 31.
Indian Railways staff, deployed in control rooms for operation of freight trains, line staff, maintenance staff, security personnel and medical staff in railway hospitals are working 24X7. "The Indian Railways understands its crucial role during this difficult time and requests all to support in ensuring faster loading and unloading of essential supplies," it said.
Earlier in the day, the railways appealed the local administration to not stop the railway employees as only passenger services had been stopped and the freight services were continuing.
The appeal from the railways came after many employees were stopped in several districts on the pretext that train services had been suspended till March 31.