Green signal for Delhi Metro’s Yellow line after 169 days

Green signal for Delhi Metro’s Yellow line after 169 days

Delhi Metro will open its gates to commuters on Monday after being shut for 169 days because of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), with a raft of health measures in place at a time when experts fear that lack of discipline in following safety norms while riding the mass transit system could stoke the pandemic.

Metro operations will resume in a phased manner, and the first line to be opened in the system will be the Yellow line, connecting Samaypur Badli and Huda City Centre in Gurugram, whose Rapid Metro is also due to resume operations. Trains will operate in two shifts, between 7 am and 1 am, and between 4 pm and 8 pm. Other lines will start operating the subsequent days.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) said it is prepared for crowd management and ensuring hygiene inside the system, but senior officials said that the key to successfully running services during the Covid-19 pandemic will be public cooperation. Mangu Singh, managing director of DMRC, appealed to the public to “break the peak” of crowding and to only travel on the network if necessary.

They also pointed out that, in light of the safety measures, passengers may have to face a longer waiting time.

“The resumption of services with a new normal to prevent the spread of Covid-19 desires public to understand and cooperate with the DMRC and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) for a comfortable and safe commuting experience,” a statement issued by the DMRC on Sunday read.

This partnership between the public and the Metro to ensure safety is a view experts concur with.

“Mandatory masks, and not riding if you have a cough, cold, fever or were in contact with a positive person are obvious precautions. Older adults, people with cancer, chronic diseases or compromised immunity must avoid crowded metros even with protection. People take out masks when they are speaking or having a conversation, which is the worst thing that can happen,” said Dr SK Sarin, director, Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences.

Delhi Metro, which used to make around 3,000 daily trips and carry 2.7 million commuters before the onset of the pandemic, suspended operations on March 22as the Covid-19 outbreak widened in the Capital, where it has infected 191,449people, claiming 4,567lives. The number of active cases in the city reached20,909 as of Sunday.

Although travelling on the Metro will no longer be the same, DMRC has put in place a host of a protocol to ensure safe travel for passengers.

Only a limited number of entry and exit gates will be open to the public, and the gates will be segregated to ensure passengers entering the station and those exiting it will follow separate routes. At the entrance, a Metro official will first check the commuters’ temperature and ensure that they sanitise their hands using the automated dispensers.

Metro staff will also be stationed to disinfectluggage that the commuters may be carrying, and markings have been made at various areas within the station — the security checkpoint, the ticketing area and the platform — so that social distancing is maintained.

Delhi transport minister Kailash Gahlot visited the Rajiv Chowk station (interchange between the yellow and blue lines) to inspect the preparations put in place for Monday’s reopening.

“I am happy to note that Rajiv Chowk, despite being one of the busiest stations, has ensured that all precautions are in place as per the SOP {standard operating procedure}… I am assured that if both, the management and passengers, responsibly follow the protocol, we will be able to set another benchmark in the Delhi model of fighting Covid-19,” said Gahlot.

Anuj Malhotra, a mobility expert and knowledge partner to the high-powered committee of the Union ministry of home affairs, said that while opening the Metro was a welcome step, Delhi Metro and the public will have to join hands to ensure that it remains safe for travel amid the pandemic.

“Metro authorities will have to ensure that there is no crowding inside the system, but passengers will also have to contribute. The Metro could also come up with a way to levy fines for those not wearing masks and following social distancing norms. Just like they issue penalties for passengers eating inside trains, this could be added as a new penalty,” said Malhotra.

Subsequently, in the coming week, other lines will be made operational in a graded manner. From September 12, the Metro operations will be made fully functional, back to the pre-lockdown timings of 6 am to 11 pm.

Even with all the preparations, passengers may have to face a longer waiting time. All trains will be disinfected at terminal stations after every trip,so the frequency of trains will vary between 2 minutes 44 seconds and 5 minutes 28 seconds, depending on the line. DMRC has advised Metro users to be prepared to spend 15-30 minutes extra to ensure that they reach their destinations on time.

Trains will also stop for a longer duration at each station to ensure passengers have enough time to board and disembark without crowding the train gates. Even inside the trains, people will only be allowed to occupy alternate seats, which will limit the carrying capacity of each coach from around 400 passengers before the pandemic to only 50 at a time now.

To discourage passengers from crowding, drivers will have the freedom to skip stations where people are not following social distancing norms and if a train passing the station is already running to its capacity.

DMRC, in its elaborate advisory, has also requested people to “talk less” during travel to prevent the possibility of short-range aerosol transmission and to “carry smaller luggage” so that there is no crowding at baggage frisking points.

“Increasing awareness and strategising will both be required at a time when a mass transit system such as the Metro is opening now. The cases are still on a rise so precaution will be of utmost importance,” said Dr Randeep Guleria, director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi.