The Indian Railways on Thursday said it would refund all tickets booked for regular trains between July 1 and August 12 as coronavirus cases in the country surged a month after the government started relaxing some of the restrictions imposed in March. Only special trains announced in May and June will run, the railways said.
Rail services, apart from the movement of some essential cargo, were abruptly halted in late March ahead of efforts to contain the virus that froze almost all economic activity, putting crores out of work overnight.
Earlier this month, the railways had increased the number of special passenger trains running in the country from 30 to over 200. These include 15 pairs of trains running on the Rajdhani routes since May 12 and 100 pairs operating since June 1.
With coronavirus cases continuing to rise and the uncertainty over when normal services will resume, officials said they wanted to refund all tickets booked for regular trains. Before the lockdown, the Railways operated around 12,000 trains every day, transporting 2 crore people.
The limited special suburban services which began recently in Mumbai to ferry essential services personnel identified by the local authorities will also continue to run, officials said.
Under the rules issued by the Home Ministry for travel, all passengers are required undergo thermal screening and only those found asymptomatic will be allowed to board the train.
On board the trains, all passengers were asked to maintain social distancing and wear face masks throughout the journey. All passengers are also advised to use hand sanitisers.
No catering, bed linen, blankets or curtains will be provided inside the train. Passengers are advised to carry their own bedsheets if they need. Temperatures inside AC coaches shall be suitably regulated for this purpose.
India registered a record 16,922 new cases on Thursday, taking total cases in the country to nearly 5 lakh with nearly 15,000 deaths.
That is behind only the United States, Brazil and Russia, and five times that of China, that has a similar-sized population and where the virus originated late last year.