New Delhi, Sep 6 (IANS) Lifeline of the national capital region, the Delhi Metro, is all set to ply on the tracks in a phased manner from Monday, after coming to a screeching halt almost six months due to coronavirus pandemic.
At a time when the capital city is reportedly witnessing a second wave of the viral infection, the government has allowed for the metro rail service to resume in a bid to restart the economy, while also keeping in mind the huge loss incurred by the corporation in the last few months.
Even though the government has, time and again, asserted that both lives and livelihood are important, several epidemiologists believe that resumption of the Metro will further increase the infection in the city.
“Over a period of next five days, rest of the lines will also be made operational with all safety measures in place to check the spread of Covid-19 in the Metro premises which requires everyone to follow a new normal of social distancing, face mask and hand sanitisation,” said Anuj Dayal, DMRC’s Executive Director of Corporate Communications on Sunday.
On Monday and Tuesday, only the yellow line, covering 49 kilometre with 37 stations consisting of 20 underground and 17 elevated stations, will remain operational for a period of four hours each in the morning from 7 am to 11 am and evening from 4 pm to 8 pm.
People have been advised to avoid unnecessary travel as far as possible and advised to stagger travel timings for office, home, other works to the extent possible so that the carrying capacity offered with new norms can be reasonably utilized by creating a travel pattern in which people are not rushing to the station in morning or peak hours only.
“Rather, people are coming equitably at all hours of the operational timings of the Metro services to ‘break the peak’- a requirement of the present times. Besides ‘Break the Peak’, DMRC appeals to commuters to ‘Talk Less’ during travel in the Metro to prevent the possibility of short-range aerosol transmission,” DMRC said in a statement.
To maintain orderliness and regulate flow of passengers with social distancing norms, only one or two gates will be kept open for entry and exit of passengers at a station.
DMRC said that apart from regular frontline staff at the stations, it has made additional deployment of around 1,000 officials and staff across the line to assist and guide passengers in the wake of new norms of travel which may take some time to settle in.
Though DMRC is making all out efforts to provide its passengers a continuous and seamless travel experience, however, with the carrying capacity of a train drastically reduced to around 20 per cent of the pre-lockdown period due to social distancing norms.
To prevent the overcrowding in trains and stations, situations might arise wherein, DMRC may have to opt for starting certain empty trains from terminal stations or short loop some trains to manage the crowded zones on a particular route and section.
This dynamic regulation of train movement will be based on the ground situation at given hours and one may have to skip a train or two, leading to extra time in completing the travel.
Similarly, dwell time is also increased by 10-20 seconds at stations for boarding-deboarding to ensure social distancing. This may also increase the total travel time in a journey by a few minutes. In view of these factors, passengers are advised to keep extra time of about 15 to 30 minutes for each travel, to be on time for their desired destinations.
“Be a smart passenger and carry your smart card with you while heading for the Metro. It is contactless, easily rechargeable through online modes and offers a discount up to 20 per cent on every travel,” the corporation added.
Tokens will not be available at the stations for the time being as they need frequent human interface for travel transactions and pose a risk of coronavirus infection so a “smart card is a must for travel”.
Since Delhi Metro operates in Delhi-NCR, it will not be providing services to such stations which fall under the containment zones for any given day in any of the states. State governments of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh notify such zones on a regular basis on their websites.
If any of the stations happen to fall in such a zone, the same will also be made public through announcements at stations and trains and through social media updates. Since most of the Metro stations lie on the median of the roads, there is a slim chance for stations to fall in the containment zone as a regular practice.
For better management of crowds at stations, DMRC is also in touch with the authorities to provide around 1,000 civil defence volunteers. Some major stations have also been identified where law enforcement agencies such as local police, etc., will be roped in to monitor law and order situation outside vulnerable areas.
Also, a request has been made to the authorities to arrange for the antigen testing of around 15,000 staff of DMRC who will be handling the public throughout the day now. This will go a long way in ensuring Covid-free atmosphere in running the services.
Trains will be sanitized at terminal stations. Similarly, once they are back to Depots after the end of the day, they will again be thoroughly sanitized. The train doors will be kept open at terminal stations to jet fresh air infuse in the train.
Regular cleaning of metro stations will be ensured by prioritizing passenger movement areas such as concourse, passages, platforms. All human contact areas — lift buttons, escalator handrails, gates touch points, customer handling points will be disinfected at stations every four hours.
In a bid to wade off people’s fear of catching coronavirus infection in closed and cramped metro compartments, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has modified the air conditioning system of the trains to allow 100 per cent inflow of fresh air.
AC filters will also be thoroughly cleansed with sodium hypochlorite solution every seven days, as against the earlier norm of fifteen days. Besides this, earlier only 30 per cent of fresh air was allowed inside the train, which has now been increased to its full capacity.
Use of ‘Aarogya Setu App’ for updating health status by passengers is also advisable. All passengers will be required to undergo thermal screening at the entrance.
Passengers having temperature will not be allowed to travel. They will be directed to report to the nearest medical centre. Only 2-3 persons will be allowed on the lift at a time.
For crowd management, monitoring will also be done through CCTV cameras installed at stations and trains. ‘Divyangjan’ commuters will be facilitated by trained customer facilitation agents ensuring proper social distancing and sanitization.
Delhi Metro operates 389km of Metro network with 285 stations in Delhi-NCR including Rapid Metro in Gurugram and Aqua Line of Noida-Greater Noida Metro. About 70 per cent of its passengers used to travel by using the smart cards. Overall passenger journeys performed in a day before the Covid-19 stuck our country was around 60 lakh.