In a marathon meeting which ended hours before the Railways began operating 200 special passenger trains, the national transporter said its trains will run as per schedule with minor changes in stoppages to address the concerns expressed by Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and Maharashtra about the planned services from June 1.
Sources said a high-level meeting was convened at the railway headquarters to resolve the matter. They indicated that the three states have raised concerns over the rising cases of coronavirus as the reason behind their opposition to movement of trains.
Andhra Pradesh requested that only 22 trains should come to the state, and instead of the planned 71 stoppages, it asked for one halt at an intermediary station along with the terminating station.
The South Central Railway, under which Andhra Pradesh falls, said in a statement late on Sunday night that all intra-state movement of passengers within the state of Andhra Pradesh by railways stands restricted.
"All passenger movements where both the boarding and deboarding station for a passenger falls within the state of Andhra Pradesh stand restricted until further advice," it said.
The statement said full fare refunds will be given to passengers who have booked their train journey with an intention to travel within the state.
On Sunday night, Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney wrote a letter to Railway Board Chairman Vinod Kumar Yadav asking the Railways to provide only one intermediary stop apart from the terminal station for the special trains as it would be "very difficult" to manage receiving of passengers at 70-odd railway stations.
"As you are aware, we have to make necessary COVID-19 medical and other protocols at all these railway stations. We also have to test these inbound rail passengers and make necessary arrangements for COVID-19 symptomatic patients and other facilities for transport of asymptomatic passengers. It will be very difficult for us to manage the receiving of passengers at 70-odd railway stations in view of the requirement of proper testing for coronavirus," the Chief Secretary said.
As per the schedule announced by the railways, 11 pairs of regular trains out of the 200 planned from June 1 would crisscross Andhra Pradesh with over 70 stops.
"It may be mentioned here that public transport within the state has been made available. Therefore, the state government would like to provide only one additional stop generally, besides terminal stoppage. This will enable us to monitor properly the movement of all rail passengers and make necessary arrangements to contain COVID-19," the top official added.
Meanwhile, the state Medical and Health Department said in a release that COVID-19 tests would be conducted on persons coming into the state through various border checkpoints. Those who test negative would be sent for home quarantine for 14 days and those testing positive would be sent to a government quarantine facility, the release said.
The Railways has decided to run 200 special passenger trains from June 1 and the first train was scheduled to depart from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus in Mumbai for Varanasi at 12:10 am.