The Delhi Metro is all geared up to meet the challenges of the new normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and will strive to give its commuters a safer travel experience when services resume on 7th September, officials said on Sunday.
The assertion from the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) came on a day the city recorded 2,024 coronavirus cases, the highest single-day spike in the past nearly 50 days. Metro services in Delhi-NCR have been closed for over five months due to the pandemic.
The Ministry of Home Affairs on Saturday (29th August 2020) issued Unlock 4 guidelines, permitting metro rail operations from September 7 in a graded manner. “Once metro services resume from September 7, the DMRC will strive to facilitate all necessary measures and precautions on its premises to provide a safe travelling experience to its commuters amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Executive Director, Corporate Communications, DMRC, Anuj Dayal said yesterday ( Sunday, 31st August 2020). The Delhi government on Sunday also issued a statement saying, services will resume with all safety precautions. “For the time being, no tokens will be issued to passengers due to high risk of spreading the COVID infection.
Further details on the metro functioning and its usage by the general public will be shared once the detailed SOP on metros is issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in the next few days, DMRC officials reiterated yesterday.
Awaiting a nod to resume operations, the DMRC in these months, meanwhile, had been training its staff on compliance to COVID-19 safety norms and also on ways to make travel safer for commuters. Limiting the number of people in lifts, longer halting time for trains at stations to allow commuters to board and alight with social distancing norms are among the measures the Delhi Metro will take to ensure safer travel for its passengers.
“A train on regular days, halts for 10 seconds to 30 seconds at a station, depending on the traffic flow and the nature of station. So, at an interchange facility, the stoppage duration is 30 seconds and 10 seconds or more at other stations. Now, trains will halt for longer duration than 10 seconds or 30 seconds,” a DMRC official said.
Also, 2-3 persons will be permissible inside a lift at any point of time against 8-9 on regular days, he said. Inside metro premises and train coaches, wearing of masks will be mandatory and social distancing norms will be followed as per government guidelines, and people not wearing masks will not be allowed to enter metro premises, officials said.
One train coach has a capacity to accommodate about 50 passengers on seats and a total of nearly 300 riders in the entire compartment, including standing commuters. With social distancing norms, this number will reduce drastically. Officials had earlier said they will introduce new smart cards with auto top-up facility, paste stickers on social distancing norms on seats and platform doors so that commuters adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines.
Gahlot also said all passengers arriving at metro stations will be thermally screened, and wearing face cover will be mandatory and those violating the norm will be ned. “I am glad that after a long wait, the people of Delhi will be able to travel by metro once again. We will ensure COVID-19 protocols on social distancing, thermal screening, smartcard-based ticketing are strictly followed,” he said.
Ensuring contactless travel, digital methods will be enabled to recharge smart cards. All measures will be taken to ensure the mandatory social distance of one metre between passengers in the trains and seats will be marked accordingly, the transport minister said. “Besides the Delhi Metro personnel, additional Civil Defence volunteers will be deployed to ensure that the stations do not get crowded,” the minister added.
Provision of sanitisers will be made at every station. The air conditioning in the coaches will be operated as per new guidelines so that there is a constant ow of fresh air in the train. A list of stations, where travel services are being restored is being prepared, which will be made public soon, he said.
The total number of entry points at Delhi Metro stations will be heavily curtailed to ensure compliance with COVID-19 safety norms, officials had earlier said. The DMRC has 10 lines spanning 242 stations and 264 stations including the Rapid Metro in Gurgaon.
While DMRC and CISF have prepared draft standard operating procedures, a final list of protocols for Metro travel will be issued by the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs (MoHUA). Soon after the Centre announced that Metro operations will be allowed in a graded manner under Unlock 4.0, the ministry said a meeting of all metro rail bodies in the country will be held on September 1.
“All MDs have been asked to look into SOPs prepared by MoHUA earlier in view of the current realities. All suggestions will be considered in the meeting and accordingly, SOPs will be finalised,” MoHUA spokesperson Rajiv Jain said on Saturday.
Gahlot said based on the SOPs issued by the ministry, the Delhi government will issue a formal order after careful consultations with Metro officials and the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA).
He explained that other than containment zones, “only a few other metro stations will not operate”. “In our discussions with DMRC, it was found that ensuring social distancing and managing crowd will need a lot of manpower, which is not possible if each and every station is opened at once,” he said.
There are 264 Metro stations in Delhi and as on Sunday, there were 820 containment zones. The relaxations being announced by the Centre under unlock guidelines to gradually ease restrictions do not apply in containment zones.
“Inside the Metro stations, CISF and Metro security staff will ensure social distancing and face masks. Outside the stations, the Delhi government will deploy civil defence volunteers. Anyone found without a mask will be fined. Inside the Metro, a distance of 1 metre will have to be maintained between people and seats will be marked accordingly,” the minister said.
DMRC officials said the focus of the SOPs will be to effectively regulate crowd so as to ensure that only 50% of a station’s commuter footfall capacity is allowed at a given time.
To be sure, before the Covid-19 lockdown, Rajiv Chowk Metro station witnessed a daily footfall of nearly 5 lakh passengers, which means that at any given hour around 20,000 to 21,000 passengers were on the station premises. Now, to provide ample space for passengers to maintain social distancing, only 8,000 to 10,000 passengers will be allowed inside the station at any given hour.
For enforcing the rule, DMRC will assign supervisors who will keep a tab on the footfall and help regulate entry.
Anuj Dayal, executive director, DMRC, said, “In the coming days, we shall focus on the preparations for the eventual resumption of services. Aspects such as the implementation of hygiene-related protocols, sensitisation of staff and other functional requirements, etc., will be looked into as per the detailed SOPs that will be issued in consultation with the ministry. We shall try to provide the best possible services to our valued commuters.”
A Metro official said regulation of crowd will be imperative, especially on the first 10 stations from the train’s point of origin. This is primarily because passengers usually do not alight immediately after boarding from a terminal, and it is only after the first 10 stations that the entry-exit balance is attained, the official said.