To ensure strict adherence to social distancing norms, the Kolkata Metro is planning to “drastically” reduce the number of passengers in its trains once it resumes operations, Kolkata metro railway spokesperson Indrani Banerjee said yesterday (Friday, 15th May 2020).
She said preparations have begun for restarting services in the city with stress on maintaining social distancing at stations and inside the trains. The metro railway will abide by guidelines issued by the Centre for resumption. “We plan to drastically reduce the number of passengers to avoid crowding and discourage non-essential travel,”.
Movement of passengers will be regulated at entry points as well as at smart gates, she said. “In order to ensure that trains are not crowded and passengers maintain social distancing norms inside coaches, the metro railway, which normally carries 6 to 6.5 lakh people on a weekday, may ferry just one-third of the usual number,” Banerjee said. Rules and regulations will have to be followed for safety of passengers, even if that leads to a substantial dip in revenue for the state-run transporter, the official said.
“We will urge passengers to use smart cards instead of tokens since it changes hands several times in a day and can be a source of contamination,” she said. The number of ticket counters will also be reduced to maintain a gap between queues. Banerjee said all passengers will undergo thermal screening and wearing of face masks will be made mandatory.
The metro authorities, however, expect footfalls to be low once it resumes services as schools and colleges are closed, and government offices are functioning with reduced staff. Metro railway officials will also hold discussions with the state government before recommencing services, she said, adding, there are many red zones through which the north-south alignment passes.
On Thursday, Metro staffers started drawing markers in front of ticket counters of Park Street Metro station, to ensure commuters maintain 1-metre gap while waiting to buy tickets. For more than a week, exhaustive sanitization exercises have been on inside stations, at platforms, concourses and in the trains of both sections.
“Only alternate windows will open at the ticket counters to allow social distancing. Commuters will stand in queues according to markers in front of the ticket counters. There will be similar demarcation between seating chairs (only at East-West Metro since north-south line doesn’t have chairs),” said an official.
Inside trains there will be markers to maintain social distancing. “Two automatic fare collection (AFC) gates will not open side by side to maintain distance,” the official said, quoting an order issued to Kolkata Metro on Monday by Metro Bhavan in Delhi. Since Kolkata has emerged as a hotspot like other Indian cities, Kolkata Metro will have a detailed operation plan on how to deal with the post-lockdown situation, once it receives directions from Railway Board.
Officials said East-West Metro with lesser footfalls (around 80,00 a day) will be easier to manage. But it will be a challenge in the north-south line where the average daily passenger count is 6.1 lakh. Metro staff said it was possible to pre-empt decisions like screening passengers through door frame metal detector only, instead of the hand-held ones to keep themselves safe. Or allowing only two passengers in the East-West Metro lifts at a time.