Metro’s Monday curbs to push for social distancingUpdated: Mar 21, 2020, 23:47 IST
New Delhi: The Delhi Metro services will be heavily curtailed on Monday, available only for eight hours instead of the usual 19, to “promote social distancing” in light of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, according to an official circular from the operator.
In a two-page note to passengers, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) said that its services will be available only for “essential services” between 6am and 8am, and for the general public during the morning peak hours of 8am to 10am and then again during the evening rush hours of 4pm and 8pm. There will be no Metro services on any of the lines between 10am and 4pm, the circular added.
Though these restrictions are in place only for Monday, March 23, the circular added that “if there is any further requirement to continue the same pattern in the larger public interest” , it shall inform passengers accordingly.
The corporation specified that people from “essential services” permitted in the early morning time slot include workers in hospitals, fire services, power, and police. The entry into the stations, a DMRC spokesperson said, will be allowed after checking work identity cards. “During this time, trains will be available at a frequency of 20 minutes,” he added.
Anuj Dayal, executive director of corporate communication at DMRC, said the “priority is to ensure that the people involved in providing the essential services, as notified by the Government, reach their destinations with ease while maintaining norms of ‘social distancing’ in the Metro premises”.
During 8am and 10am, the trains will be available at normal frequency, and again between 4pm and 8 pm, he added. The last train service starting at 8:00pm from the originating station will continue to run till it reaches its destination.
The DMRC has also decided to close all the parking lots at its Metro stations on Monday.
The curtailing of services comes a day after Sunday’s “Janta Curfew” (people’s curfew) called across the country by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has people to stay at home from 7am to 9pm on Sunday to stay safe from the virus and as a symbolic gesture that they have the patience and resolve to combat the virus.
Though the people’s curfew is voluntary, the Delhi Metro will be shut on Sunday.
Spread over 389km, the Metro is the transport lifeline of Delhi with nearly 55-60 lakh passenger journeys daily.
While doctors say social distancing is essential to limit the spread of the contagious disease, transport experts say that curtailing the Metro service will only lead to crowding during the limited operating hours.
Sewa Ram, professor of transport planning at School of Planning and Architecture, said that the reduction might lead to chaos on the Blue line (Dwarka sector 21-Noida Electronic city) and Yellow line (Samaypur Badli- HUDA city centre). “These are two of metro’s busiest corridors. There are many offices which are still open. By restricting metro service, it will lead to crowding at stations. The demand has to go down before the services are curtailed.”
Metro officials said that footfall at metro stations has already dipped significantly. A lot of private organisations have asked their employees to work from home. Due to the measures taken by the government, Metro ridership has already plummeted from nearly 60 lakh to 37 lakh (as on Thursday).
“With various directives from the government for closure of many establishments, ‘work from home’ instructions issued in many organisations including government agencies and awareness in the public, we expect that the level of commuter traffic will be much less… Reduction in operational hours will further help in discouraging people from using the system unless it’s absolutely mandatory,” said Dayal.
As a precautionary measure, the Delhi government and other government agencies have announced that all the malls, gyms, cinema halls, restaurants, salons and beauty and sports facilities will be closed in the national capital till March 31.
To discourage “crowding” at its stations and train, the Metro on Thursday had advised people to use its services for “essential travel only”.
The decision is going to cause some inconvenience to regular metro users. Aruna Sharma, a resident of South Extension Part-I who works in Gurugram, said, “the Metro is already empty, even during the peak hours. But if the services are further curtailed, it might lead to crowding. Let’s see how it rolls out tomorrow. As this is just for a day, I’ll take a cab.”