The Indian Railways is gearing up to function again as it was during pre-COVID times and hence, has taken a decision to drop the 'special' tag from most of its trains. One of the drawbacks of the special trains inducted post COVID-19 lockdown was the higher price paid by commoners opting for train travels.
A railway source on condition of anonymity told Business Standard, "The special trains that were initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic are being replaced by normal train services. This would result in lowering of passenger fares to the tune of around 15% across the board." According to reports, around 1,700 trains run by the Indian Railways will be affected by this decision.
Restricted booking till November 21
The ministry is also looking at upgrading its systems and hence, has put a restriction on the usage of the passenger reservation system (PRS). According to its press statement, the reservation system will be shut for six hours every night till November 21 in order to normalize passenger services and revert to pre-COVID times in a phased manner.
"Since a huge amount of past (old train numbers) and current passenger booking data is to be updated in all mail/express trains, this is being planned in a series of carefully calibrated steps and implemented during night hours in order to minimize the impact on ticketing services," the statement furthered.
However, the hygiene protocols put in place during the pandemic including the non-issuing of bedrolls are to continue as before. While for a brief period, restrictions were also put on cooked meals provided from the rail pantry, these curbs were lifted around August this year enabling passengers to utilize the catering services.
The IRCTC is also looking to promote 'vegetarian-friendly travel' by getting some pilgrimage trains 'Sattvik certified', especially those running on routes connecting religious sites, according to a statement by Sattvik Council of India which is involved with the certification.
One of the examples of such trains included in the statement was of Vande Bharat Express which runs from Delhi to Katra in J&K. Around 18 trains running to various pilgrimage sites in the country may reportedly follow the certification.
"IRCTC base kitchens, executive lounges, budget hotels, food plazas, travel and tour packages, Rail Neer plants will be 'sattvik' certified to ensure vegetarian-friendly travel, the statement furthered.
While the decision was hailed by a few rail travelers, it left some with much scope for answers.
"Whatever efforts IRCTC may do but sattvik people will not trust anyone when it comes to their food. We (vegetarians) can carry our meals in a 20 odd hours journey," Twitter user Prateek Anand stated.
Another user Alok Singh questioned, "If I carry my personal non-veg food, is it allowed? Or @RailMinIndia, @IRCTCofficial will decide for whole passenger that Train is sattvik and you just can't eat non veg there? Is there is Categorization of public space on basis of food choice?"