CM Uddhav Thackeray yesterday (Wednesday, 18th March 2020) directed transport agencies like BEST, Metro, the railways, the state transport corporation and even private buses to run their services at 50% passenger capacity in order to decongest public transport.
The state government has also asked local bodies in urban areas to reschedule timings of shops in order to avoid crowds. Importantly, BMC officials, accompanied by cops, will start visiting private offices across the city from Thursday to check if they are implementing the state’s “50% staff only” directive in the wake of Covid-19 concerns.
BMC chief Praveen Pardeshi on Wednesday issued a circular asking all ward officers to identify roads on which all shops and commercial activities would be kept shut on alternate days. In areas that see big crowds, shifts for stores may be decided so that all are not open at the same time. This rule would not apply to essential stores like chemists or grocery shops.
Guidelines have been issued to BEST to not allow standees in buses. These steps were announced after the CM held a review meeting with stakeholders. But senior railway officials said crowds could not be reduced in this manner to 50% of capacity as those with valid tickets could not be stopped from boarding trains.
No standees to be allowed in BEST buses from today AWR official said, “At the meeting with the CM, we were asked for suggestions to reduce crowding on trains. We said the number of services cannot be reduced as that will lead to overcrowding. We said there is already a drop in ridership by 25%, and if additional measures like implementing the work-from-home directive or closing non-essential shops are taken, ridership would automatically come down to 50%.” A CR official said, “Already steps like increasing rates of platform tickets and monitoring of crowds through CCTVs have been taken. No additional measures will be taken as we already have security personnel to streamline crowd movement at stations.”
BEST general manager Surendrakumar Bagde said no standees will be allowed in BEST buses from Thursday. Announcements will also be made asking passengers to keep a distance from each other. “We will ensure passengers are seated and don’t brush past each other while boarding or alighting. The conductor will ensure everyone is seated,” he said. The state has said additional buses can be deployed if needed.
In Panvel civic corporation limits, all shops except essential ones will be closed from Friday. Thackeray has already appealed to people to avoid non-essential travel, saying if they didn’t, the government would be forced to stop bus and railway services. According to data with the state, there has been a 27% drop in passengers on WR, a 51% drop in those using ST buses and a 40% drop in Metro users. All government offices are also to work at 50% capacity till March 31. But departments dealing with emergency services will work at 100% strength.