Railways' 'Oxygen Express' trains to meet high demand amid surge in COVID-19 cases

Amid spiralling coronavirus cases in the country, the demand for medical oxygen in the country has gone through the roof

New Delhi: The Railways will run 'Oxygen Express' trains over the next few days to transport liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country, the national transporter said on Sunday.

Amid spiralling coronavirus cases in the country, the demand for medical oxygen in the country has gone through the roof.

Empty tankers will begin their journey from Kalamboli and Boisar railway stations in and near Mumbai on Monday to load liquid medical oxygen from Vizag, Jamshedpur, Rourkela and Bokaro, officials said.

"Roll-on-Roll-off oxygen trucks getting loaded for Oxygen Express. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership, the Government of India is committed to doing everything possible to help COVID-19 patients," Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said in a tweet.

Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra state governments had earlier approached the Railways Ministry to explore whether liquid medical oxygen tankers could be moved by the rail network, officials said.

On the receipt of the request from the two states, the Railways immediately explored the technical feasibility of transportation of liquid medical oxygen. It has to be transported through roll-on-roll-off service with road tankers placed on flat wagons.

"Since the first empty tankers will move on April 19, we hope to begin operations of Oxygen Express over the next few days. We would be able to send oxygen wherever there is such demand. Green corridor is being created for fast movement of Oxygen Express trains," an official said.

A meeting was held between Railway Board officials and state transport commissioners and representatives of the industry on April 17 on issues related to transportation of liquid medical oxygen.

"Instructions have been issued to zonal railways to ensure readiness to receive the trailers and load them. Ramps have to be built at Vizag, Angul and Bhilai and the existing ramp at Kalamboli is to be strengthened.

"The Kalamboli ramp would be made ready by April 19. Ramps at other locations would also be ready in a couple of days by the time the tankers reach those locations.

"Due to restrictions of height of Road Over Bridges and over-head equipment at certain locations, the model of road tanker T-1618 with a height of 3,320 mm was found feasible to be placed on flat wagons (DBKM) with a height of 1,290 mm," the railways said in a statement.

In order to ensure that parameters of transportation are tested, trials were conducted at various locations, it said.

On April 18 a trial was organised by the Western Railway at Boisar where a loaded tanker was placed on a flat DBKM wagon and all the required measurements were taken.

The Railways have already placed DBKM wagons at Kalamboli and at other locations. The Railways is awaiting advice from Maharashtra to move the tankers.

A tentative movement plan has been made for dispatching 10 empty tankers on April 19, the Railways said.

"The transport secretary of Maharashtra has assured to provide the tankers by April 19," it said.

In order to enable commercial booking and freight payment for roll-on-roll-off movement of liquid medical oxygen in cryogenic tankers, the Railway Ministry had issued a circular on April 16 providing all necessary details and guidance on the matter.

Zonal railways have been informed about the demands from states.

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