The Ministry of Railways on Thursday informed the Bombay High Court that it would not be feasible to convert railway coaches into intensive care units for COVID-19 patients, as the same would require extensive structural changes.
The Railways filed an affidavit in response to a petition by social activist Naresh Kapoor seeking the court's direction to convert unused train coaches into quarantine facilities or ICUs considering the rise in COVID-19 cases.
"The conversion of train coaches to ICUs is not possible without extensive structural modifications and major changes. These changes would need detailed design and can be done only in units with elaborate manufacturing facilities," the affidavit stated.
Moreover, isolation or quarantine facilities in coaches are temporary arrangements till the Railways begin regular operations and the modifications made were reversible, it added.
As per the affidavit, train coaches cannot be reused for regular passenger services if major structural changes were carried out.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M S Karnik noted that presently, the situation is not such that conversion of coaches into ICUs is warranted.
The court in its order also expressed its satisfaction with the changes made by the Railways in coaches used as quarantine or isolation facilities.
The Railways in its affidavit further stated that the Central Railway had converted 482 non-air-conditioned coaches on 24 rakes into makeshift isolation centres in Maharashtra.
The middle seat in a regular non-AC coach has been removed and a toilet at the end of a coach has been turned into a bathroom.
Similarly, the Western Railway has converted 410 non-AC coaches on 18 rakes into quarantine facilities.
These rakes were stationed at key junctions between Mumbai and Bhavnagar in Gujarat, it was stated.