Delhi

Delhi Metro ready to resume, commuters in limbo

Security personnel seen at Rajiv Chowk Metro Station during a preview of arrangement for new travel protocol to be followed by the passengers on September 3, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

Raju Dubey, 26, a cashier at a motorbike showroom in Saket has had a difficult time travelling to work in the last few months. While at times he hopped on his friends’ bikes to reach the showroom, at other times he took a bus at the cost of increasing his travel time, he said.

Mr. Dubey, like several other city residents, has been waiting for the resumption of metro services for over five months now.

The Delhi Metro, which halted its operations five months ago following the imposition of a nationwide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to run again from Monday in a graded manner.

With 57 trains being made operational for the 49-km-long Yellow Line, trains will be available at an interval of 2.44 minutes to 5.28 minutes at different stretches, officials said.

The passenger capacity of each train has been reduced to around 20% of the pre-lockdown period due to social distancing norms. The DMRC has appealed to commuters to travel light, avoid carrying metallic items and “talk less” during their journey to prevent the possibility of short-range aerosol transmission.

Mahesh Chand, who plans to ride the metro to Lal Quila on weekends, said, “Social distancing is not really being maintained anywhere. Look at the buses. Besides, if the government has decided to restart the metro, it must have put some thought behind it.”

Measuring the risks

However, several others said they would prefer to wait and watch before heading out in numbers. Supriya Sundriyal, a resident of Arjun Nagar and a regular on the Yellow Line for her daily commute to Gurugram, said, “I will initially avoid the metro because of the fear of spread of infection. While the government must have put all safety measures in place, I am not too sure of how it plans to manage the intake of passengers at crowded stations.”

“It’s a good move to start the metro in a graded manner, but I think it is better to observe the results first before risking my life and those of others,” said Ms. Sundriyal.

Rajiv Chowk Metro Station during a preview of arrangement for new travel protocols to be followed by the passengers on September 3, 2020.

Rajiv Chowk Metro Station during a preview of arrangement for new travel protocols to be followed by the passengers on September 3, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

 

Anwesh Patnaik, a student, also rejected the idea of riding the metro anytime soon on account of the soaring number of COVID-19 cases. “I used to take the metro pretty regularly, mostly the Yellow and Violet Line, but I don’t think it makes any sense to start using it right now,” said Mr. Patnaik.

Rakesh Ahuja, 32, an executive working at a firm in Noida, said, “On a regular day, my metro commute from south Delhi to Noida included 17 stations across two lines. I am not entirely convinced of using the metro so soon as being in an enclosed space for so long is too big a risk at this stage. Also with longer queues and stricter security checks at every stage, the travel time will increase exponentially, which is not something I can afford right now.”

Last-mile connectivity

Ajay Kumar, an autorickshaw driver from Bihar who has been working in Delhi for the last 12 years, said, “During the lockdown I went back to my village with my family. I came back to the city two weeks ago hoping that the situation would have improved but that doesn’t seem to be the case as we hardly get any passengers these days. The metro reopening will definitely boost our passenger load as there will be a little more movement of people.”

Rajiv Chowk Metro Station during a preview of arrangement for new travel protocols to be followed by the passengers on September 3, 2020.

Rajiv Chowk Metro Station during a preview of arrangement for new travel protocols to be followed by the passengers on September 3, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

 

E-rickshaw operators, who ply to and from the Govindpuri metro station, also hoped to get more passengers after the restarting of the metro. Despite the easing of the lockdown, drivers here say they get very few passengers and their earnings are very low.

Mohammad Habib, an autorickshaw driver in the Capital for the last 18 years, added, “The situation is quite bad as earnings are lower than ever. I am not sure if the metro reopening is a good sign for us as the few passengers we get might want to travel in the metro and not auto. That will just diminish our earnings further.”

Economic activities

After a lull in business for several months, street vendors around metro stations are also pinning their hopes on resumption of services. Dayaram Singh, who sells junk jewellery at Connaught Place, said, “I returned to my spot around 20 days ago. Due to lack of public transport, CP was hardly its usual self. Now we will have to wait and watch if the metro helps increase the footfall. These days we are not even earning half of what we used to earlier.”

Rajiv Chowk Metro Station during a preview of arrangement for new travel protocols to be followed by the passengers on September 3, 2020.

Rajiv Chowk Metro Station during a preview of arrangement for new travel protocols to be followed by the passengers on September 3, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

 

Satyaveer Khushwar, another vendor, said, “One can never tell whether with the resumption of metro services people will be back. A few weeks ago, when the number of cases dropped in the city, the footfall increased and there was a glimmer of hope. Now, with the rising numbers, we are back to almost no business again.”

Protocol and guidelines

With the resumption of services, metro commuters will have to adapt to new guidelines like occupying alternate seats, mandatory use of smart cards instead of tokens, social distancing and restricted access for entering and exiting stations.

In a bid to ensure compliance of protocol, a staff of 800 will be deployed by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) across its stations. While commuters will have to undergo thermal screening and sanitisation processes at the station entry, not more than three people will be allowed inside the lifts. A foot-operated pedal for calling lifts has also been installed at 16 stations across the network.

Rajiv Chowk Metro Station during a preview of arrangement for new travel protocols to be followed by the passengers on September 3, 2020.

Rajiv Chowk Metro Station during a preview of arrangement for new travel protocols to be followed by the passengers on September 3, 2020.   | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

 

The dwell (stoppage) time of metro trains will also be increased to ensure that passengers have enough time to board or alight. According to the guidelines, metro trains will not stop at stations falling in containment zones.

“The list of such stations will be updated on a regular basis depending on the current containment zones,” said a DMRC official.

Precautionary measures

The DMRC said that at the end of each trip machine-based sanitisation with special chemicals will be done at all touch points inside the train.

“As for station cleaning, sanitisation will be carried out every four hours. In addition to that, all baggages would be scanned at the scan machines,” the DMRC said.

Metro officials said that the air conditioning systems of trains have been modified to keep fresh air flow to 100% open mode (fresh air intake) and the AC filters will be cleaned every seven days instead of the earlier 15-day period.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 4:48:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/metro-ready-commuters-in-limbo/article32537470.ece

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