Delhi Metro to increase checks to ensure Covid safety compliance, commute time may go up
Travel time for passengers in Delhi Metro is likely to witness a rise, with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation on Thursday announcing that they will intensify their drive to ensure Covid-19 appropriate behaviour inside the system in the wake of rising number of cases in the Capital. This effectively means that passengers may have to wait in queues to enter Metro stations.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) also said that entry will be strictly regulated as per Covid-19 physical distancing protocols, especially at major stations like Rajiv Chowk, Barakhamba Road, Central Secretariat, Patel Chowk, ITO. The checks will be stepped up during morning and evening peak hours.
“Due to the strict reinforcement of social distancing norms, passengers are advised to plan their journey in advance and allow for additional time of 20-30 minutes for their commute. If possible, off-peak hour travel may also be opted by those who have the flexibility to avoid overcrowding/long wait during peak hours,” Anuj Dayal, executive director (corporate communications), DMRC, said on Thursday.
DMRC’s heightened safety protocols come two days after the Delhi government identified the Metro services to be among the five super-spreader zones that were contributing to the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the Capital. The city has been witnessing a steady increase of fresh cases, notching 1,515 cases on Thursday at a positivity rate of 1.69%.
Metro authorities will also be increasing the number of flying squads for checking violations of physical distancing and mask protocols inside the trains. “Inside trains, the number of flying squads and the frequency of checking drives is being increased,” a Metro official said, adding that “offenders will be penalized on the spot.”
Data shared by DMRC showed that while the monthly footfall since Metro operations resumed in September last year was the highest in February, the number of prosecutions for violation of Covid-19 safety norms was the lowest in the same month. While 7.16 crore commuters used the Metro in February, as compared to 1.48 crore in September 2020 (when Delhi Metro reopened), the number of violations detected decreased for the same period from 5,180 (in September last year) to 2,823.
“The teams also counsel passengers regarding Covid protocols and penalise them if required under section 59 of Delhi Metro O&M Act, for creating nuisance, such as not wearing masks/maintaining social distancing during their travel inside trains. Regular announcements inside trains and station premises are also being made to create mass awareness,” Dayal said.
Commuters have also been asked to maintain social distance, while entering or exiting stations. “While waiting in a queue, the passengers will be strictly required to wait on the marked social distancing circles/stripes. If it is found that the social distancing protocols are not being followed at stations, entry gates will be closed for passengers at those stations until social distancing can be ensured,” DMRC said.
In order to ensure that there is no overcrowding outside Metro stations, DMRC said it will write to district officials to deploy staff who maintain physical distancing outside the stations. “There might be a spike in number of passengers waiting outside the stations for their turn to enter stations in line with social distancing norms,” it added.
As per the existing Covid Safety Protocol, it is mandatory for all the passengers to enter the station after thermal screening, hand sanitization, bag sanitization, and with their faces properly covered with a mask. Social distancing in Metro premises is to be followed throughout their journey.
Though, passengers are also required to sit in designated alternate seats and stand at spots with floor stickers inside the train, several commuters were seen flouting these norms during a spot check done by HT this week.
Ritu Gupta, 20, an undergraduate student at Delhi University, who travels from Dwarka to GTB Nagar to attend her coaching classes, said, “People have become careless in terms of maintaining physical distancing inside the trains. With the rise in number of commuters, many sit on seats that are supposed to remain empty during the journey. This situation can be alarming for families with elderly people, who are yet to get vaccinated.”
Other commuters pointed out the problem of crowding at Metro stations. “At peak hours at busier Metro stations, people rush inside the trains in groups. Though it is not bad as old times, being coming in close proximity to people who are not even wearing their masks properly increases the chance of infection,” said Mohit Sharma, 29, a marketing executive who travels from INA to his office in Gurgaon daily.