Wait at each Metro station to get longer to ensure social distancing
Before the lockdown, a train would stop at each station for around 30 seconds, and slightly longer at interchange stations, a DMRC official said. This time will be increased by 30 seconds.Updated: May 27, 2020 02:26 IST
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is planning to increase the duration each train halts at a station to ensure social distancing on-board trains, as per the corporation’s tentative Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the resumption of Metro services in the national capital.
Before the lockdown, a train would stop at each station for around 30 seconds, and slightly longer at interchange stations, a DMRC official said. This time will be increased by 30 seconds.
The SOP will only be finalised based on the Centre’s direction, which is likely to be issued in the coming days before the fourth round of lockdown ends on May 31. Senior DMRC officials said they had a meeting with Delhi transport minister Kailash Gahlot on May 15, two days before the Centre issued its guidelines for the fourth phase of the nationwide lockdown, to discuss how social distancing can be maintained in stations and onboard trains once operations commence.
The Centre is, however, yet to take a call on resuming Metro operations, with the lockdown slated to end on May 31.
Commuters will be seated alternately inside the trains, and every next seat has been marked to this effect. According to a DMRC official, Metro staff members will also check each coach during the increased stoppage time, to ensure passengers adhere to the new seating norms.
Trains will also be disinfected after each trip. “This essentially means that half the total number of trains will operate at a time. Each train will take at least an hour to disinfect,” the DMRC official said.
When contacted, Gahlot said, “The SOPs will be issued either by the DMRC or the Centre.”
The SOP, which is still subject to change, also mandates that all commuters be thermally screened. The Metro corporation has started earmarking space on station floors, including platforms, for passengers to stand while in queue. The SOP suggests that tokens be done away with, to minimise contact, and ticketing be made completely cashless.
For its effective implementation, the Metro plans to increase the number of staff members present at the entry point.
“Before the Centre issued its guidelines for the fourth round of lockdown, we had made arrangements for alternative seating arrangements and complete sanitation of stations and trains,” the official said.
The official also said that even though passengers will be checked at entry points to make sure they are wearing masks, security agencies might be empowered to issue fines under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) (disobedience of an order promulgated by a public servant), which carries a fine of ₹200 and a jail term of up to a month, if a passenger is found not wearing a mask in the station or in trains.
Fines could also be issued under sections 269 and 270 of the IPC, which books them for the spread of the infection of any disease dangerous to life.
“This would depend on the final order issued by the central government,” the Metro official said.
“The DMRC will follow any guidelines/SOP issued by the government, and ensure they are complied with. If any further SOP is required, the same shall be also taken care of,” said Anuj Dayal, executive director (corporate communication), DMRC.
He added, “Additional staff will be deployed only in essential areas like entry/exit points and platforms, as there is no point further congesting the premises.”
Once inside the station, information boards will remind people to maintain social distancing and wear masks at all times. This message will also be repeated along with the announcements made in stations and inside trains.
While thermal screening will be mandatory at entry points, DMRC officials said it is still unsure who will be assigned the task. The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which is in charge of securing the stations, said they have not been issued any such orders so far.
A senior CISF official, requesting anonymity said, “We will follow the government’s orders. As of now, we don’t have any orders to screen commuters once operations start. DMRC will have to provide thermal scanners, if they want us to screen passengers.”
Meanwhile, the DMRC has placed orders for procuring thermal scanners. A DMRC official said, “A decision regarding who will do the screening at the entry points is yet to be taken.”
These measures are based on guidelines provided by the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs (MoHUA) to all Metro corporations in the country to drafting SOPs.