Delhi Metro resumption to happen in ‘graded manner’; protocol out soon
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) will resume train operations after a hiatus of over five months from September 7, with the Union home ministry (MHA) on Saturday allowing Metro services in a graded manner under the Unlock 4.0 guidelines to gradually ease restrictions imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“Metro rail will be allowed to operate with effect from 7th September 2020 in a graded manner, by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (Mohua)/Ministry of Railways (MOR), in consultation with the MHA. In this regard, SOP will be issued by Mohua,” the order read.
The announcement came on a day when Delhi recorded 1,954 fresh Covid-19 cases – the highest single-day spike since July 10, when 2,089 cases were recorded.
Minutes after the go-ahead from the Centre, the DMRC issued a statement saying the protocols that need to be followed at the station and inside trains will be released after specific guidelines are issued by the Centre.
“As per the latest guidelines issued by the MHA under Unlock-4, the Delhi Metro will be resuming its services for the public from September 7 onwards in a calibrated manner,” said Anuj Dayal, executive director (corporate communications), DMRC.
Dayal added, “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 Mohua in the next few days.”
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal welcomed the decision.
“I am glad that metro has been permitted to start its operations from 7 Sep in a phased manner,” Kejriwal tweeted.
Delhi Metro services have been suspended since March 22.
The MoHUA said it will issue SOPs for Metro operations, after discussions with all corporations. “Metro rail operations have been allowed from 7th September 2020. The SOPs already circulated will be discussed on 1st Sep 2020 through video conferencing by Mohua with all metro companies and finalised,” ministry spokesperson Rajiv Jain said.
While some commuters welcomed the announcement as “long overdue”, others questioned the timing, since Covid cases have been on the rise.
“The Metro is vital for those who are working and going to their jobs. People who don’t own private vehicles don’t have to worry but riding the bus or taking cabs now is tough,” tweeted MK Tomar.
Another commuter, Vinayak Patwardhan, tweeted, “Don’t allow the Delhi Metro to run just yet. Cases are on a rise and more people will get infected. The stations are a congested space and this will increase the possibility of the spread of infection…”
Delhi Police and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) officers said they will continue to hold meetings with the Metro’s security unit to decide measures to ensure social distancing at stations. One such meeting is scheduled for Monday.
DMRC officials privy to the arrangements being made for the resumption of services pointed out that managing operations will be challenging. “Though the final SOP will come from the ministry, through the discussions we have had over the last few months, we know the focus will be on very strict implementation of social distancing norms inside the stations and in trains,” a senior DMRC official said on the condition of anonymity.
Dr Prateek Rajyavardhan, who specialises in community medicine and is associated with a government hospital in Delhi, said managing crowds in an enclosed space, especially in underground stations will be a tough task for the agencies.
“We will have to wait for the final guidelines to be issued by the ministry before we comment on the success or failure of the trial. Managing the crowds in stations will still be easier, but what happens inside the trains? Since we have opened up the rest of the city, we had to open up mass transit systems at some point, but if this is the right time is what we need to see,” Rajyavardhan said.