Eighty new special trains will be operational from September 12, reservations for which will begin from next Thursday, Railway Board Chairman V K Yadav said on Saturday, while asserting the real timeframe for the completion of the bullet train project will be clear in three to six months.
Yadav, who was recently appointed the first CEO of the Railway Board, said within the next three to six months the status of land acquisition, delayed due to COVID-19 pandemic, for the high-speed Mumbai-Ahmedabad rail project will be ascertained.
Eighty-two per cent of the land has been acquired in Gujarat, while in Maharashtra land acquisition is only at 23 per cent, he said.
At a media briefing, the railway board chairman said, "Eighty new special trains or 40 pair of trains will start operating from September 12. Reservations will begin from September 10. These will run in addition to the 230 trains already in operation."
Yadav said the railways will monitor all the trains that are currently in operation to determine which trains have a long waiting list.
"Wherever there is a demand for a particular train, wherever the waiting list is long, we will run a clone train ahead of the actual train, so that passengers can travel," he said.
The key factor in deciding the 80 new trains was the fact that there were many stations from where the migrant workers are going back to their workplace, Yadav said.
"Many of these trains are running in the reverse direction of the Shramik Special trains. So, they (people) are leaving their homes and going to their workplace.
"We are monitoring the occupancy of trains and will run more trains as per demand. Among the 230 trains, the occupancy of 12 is very less. We are running them, but will reduce the number of coaches," he said, adding that the average occupancy in the 230 trains is 80-85 per cent.
Yadav said the Railways is coordinating with the state governments while deciding on the introduction of new trains.
To a question about running trains for exams, Yadav said, "We will run trains whenever there is a request from state governments for exams and other such purposes."
About the Supreme Court order to remove about 48,000 slum dwellings situated along the railway tracks in the national capital within three months, he said, "Immediate action for removing garbage along tracks taken jointly by Delhi government and the Railways in line with the top court order."
On the bullet train project, Yadav said it was progressing well and a reassessment of the timeframe for its completion will be done within the next three to six months.
He said in a linear project like the bullet train, work can only begin when a certain amount of land is available.
"We are hoping that within the next three to six months, we will be able to get to the point where we have 90-100 per cent of the land. Our designs are ready and we are set to go. It is true that the tenders and land acquisition were delayed a bit due to the coronavirus pandemic, but I can say that the project is progressing well.
"As the COVID-19 situation improves, we will be able to start the bidding process and within the next three to six months, we will be able to get the status of land acquired and then we will be able to provide a real timeframe for the completion of the project," Yadav said.
Dismissing news reports that Japanese firms were not keen on the project any longer, he said both Indian and Japanese companies were on board and urged people not to pay heed to such rumours.
Commenting on the dedicated freight corridor and the delays, Yadav said the contractors have started speeding up work and the issues have been resolved.
Yadav also announced that the Railways will begin the recruitment process for 1.40 lakh posts in three categories from December 15. The exams could not be conducted due to COVID-19 as a computer-based exam was to take place, he said.
"The computer-based exams will begin from December 15 for the three categories of posts and a detailed schedule will be announced very soon," Yadav said.
"We had invited applications for recruitment in various categories for 1,40,640 posts. These were notified in the pre-COVID period. Scrutiny of these applications was completed, but due to coronavirus pandemic a computer-based examination could not be completed," Yadav said.