Metro stations in red zones not likely to open on Day 1
Metro stations in containment zones and a few other places may not immediately open when the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) restarts train operations from September 7, according to Unlock 4.0 guidelines issued by the Union home ministry, Delhi transport minister Kailash Gahlot said on Sunday.
The minister said tokens might not be issued initially, and only those with smart cards could be allowed. He also said that to manage footfall and enforce social distancing and other measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the Delhi government will deploy home guards outside the stations.
“We have discussed the opening of Delhi Metro and based on that, it has been decided that no tokens will be issued in Delhi Metro from September 7 until further orders. Also, not all Metro stations will open at once. Those in containment zones and a few others will not be opened immediately from the first day. The DMRC is currently preparing a list of stations, which will be opened based on footfall and other parameters. A list of stations where travel services are being restored will be made public soon,” Gahlot said.
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.
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“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.
When asked about the deliberations with the Delhi government, the DMRC did not offer a comment.
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.
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