The first Oxygen Express train for Delhi carrying around 70 tonnes of the life-saving gas will depart from Jindal Steel Works plant in Raigarh on Sunday night, Chairman Railway Board Suneet Sharma said.
The train, with four tankers, will reach Delhi by Monday night, he said.
The railways has chalked out plans to transport medical oxygen from Angul, Kalingnagar, Rourkela and Raigarh to Delhi and NCR region, Sharma said, adding the Delhi government has been advised to get road tankers ready to obtain the oxygen.
"First Oxygen Express for the national capital carrying four tankers with 70 tonnes of liquid medical oxygen will depart tonight for Delhi Cantonment from Jindal Steel Works, Raigarh. It will reach Delhi by Monday night," the railway board chairman said.
Every few hours, as it has been for the last days, hospitals across the national capital and its suburbs has been sending out desperate messages seeking help on social media and other platforms, flagging their dwindling stocks of oxygen.
In view of the high demand for oxygen in the country following a record spike in coronavirus cases, the Railways has decided to run Oxygen Express trains to transport liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country.
Tankers are being transported on flat wagons by trains for quick supply of medical oxygen.
"We have carried 150 tonnes of oxygen to Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra till now and by tonight we will move 150 tonnes more. About Delhi, we are readying four tankers from Jindal Steel Plant in Raigarh.
"Plans are ready to move oxygen for Delhi and NCR region from plants in Angul, Raigarh, Kalingnagar and Rourkela. We have asked the state government to keep their trucks ready," Sharma said.
Officials said the Delhi government in its letter to the Railways has asked it to load liquid medical oxygen from nine locations.
"These have been examined and the feasibility analysed after which the state government was informed that oxygen can be transported from seven out of these nine locations. The other two sites were not feasible due to technical reasons.
"They were also requested to arrange tankers and place indent at stations. The Assistant Divisional Railway Manager, Delhi is being nominated as nodal officer for the purpose," an official said.
Delhi reported a staggering 348 deaths due to Covid-19 as hospitals in the national capital continued to grapple with a severe shortage of medical oxygen. As many as 24,331 fresh cases were reported in the last 24 hours.
Asked if the Railways will cut down on its services due to the surge in COVID-19 infections, Sharma said trains will keep running.
"Despite COVID, trains will continue to run. Wherever there is demand, we are increasing services. We can rationalise service where demand is less. Over 70 per cent of the trains are currently in operation," he said.