Metro to open in phases for asymptomatic users
The ministry issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the resumption of Metro services under the so-called Unlock 4 guidelines.Updated: Sep 03, 2020, 00:39 IST
Metro services across India , except in Maharashtra, will resume in phases from September 7 with all becoming operational by September 12, according to the ministry for housing and urban affairs -- a move that will significantly increase public transport capacity across India, and especially Delhi, but also one that comes against the backdrop of a surge in cases in the country.
The ministry issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the resumption of Metro services under the so-called Unlock 4 guidelines. Metro services have been nonoperational since late March when India declared a lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease. There are 15 Metro networks across India, and in Delhi, about 2.7 million passengers used the network daily before the pandemic.However, the trains will not stop at stations in containment zones, which will remain closed. It wasn’t immediately clear how many stations will be affected by this.
“Daily hours of operations may be staggered initially, which needs to be increased gradually with resumption of full revenue service by September 12. Frequency of trains to be regulated to avoid passenger crowding at stations and in trains,” the SOP said. It added that the air-conditioning in stations and trains would be tweaked to increase the circulation of fresh air.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) will reopen its doors to passengers in three stages. In the first stage, the Metro will function for truncated periods — from 7am to 11am, and then from 4pm to 8pm. In the second stage, on September 11, this hours will be expanded slightly while from the following day, the network will return to its regular hours.
Delhi Metro officials said upon restart, operations will be monitored in real-time, and staff will be tasked with ensuring distancing and minimising crowds. Trains will be allowed to skip a station if crowds are deemed too large and no further passengers will be allowed entry into a station if officials consider it to have hit peak capacity, a senior official said, asking not to be named.
The government of Maharashtra has decided not to resume operations of the Metro in September. “Hence, Mumbai Line-1 and Maharashtra Metro operations shall commence from October or as state Government may decide further,” Union housing minister Hardeep Puri said at a press conference.
Maharashtra is India’s worst affected state in terms of Covid-19 cases and deaths. Till Tuesday evening, the state had seen 825,739 cases and 25,195 deaths.
Based on the guidelines issued by the Centre, the metro corporations of Delhi, Noida, Chennai, Kochi, Bangalore, Mumbai Line-1, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Maha Metro (Nagpur), Kolkata, Gujarat and UP Metro (Lucknow) have prepared their SOPs, the ministry said.
The SOPs have been finalised following discussions with the managing directors of 15 Metro rail corporations on Tuesday and with the approval by the Union home ministry.
Under its Unlock 4 plan, issued on Saturday, the home ministry allowed Metro services in a phased manner from September 7.
In order to ensure social distancing, stations and train coaches will carry signages and labels. Passengers will have to wear masks at all times, as should staff of the Metros. Metro rail corporations may make arrangements for supply of masks on payment basis to the persons arriving without mask, the guidelines said. In most states, masks are mandatory.
“There will be marking across stations for maintaining social distancing and even inside the trains on the seats. Passengers must ensure that they adhere to it; we are monitoring each and every location through video cameras through central control rooms and if at any station these norms are violated or crowding takes place the instructions are that metro trains will not stop at those stations. We have even added this in the SOP,” housing affairs secretary Durga Shanker Mishra said.
Puri said the government may have to review the arrangements if resumption of services leads to crowding at stations and passengers are found violating social distancing norms.
“Emphasis has to be on review and caution. We are very clear in our minds that this opening up in a graded and calibrated manner will need to be reviewed. If we find that the resumption of operations is not resulting in social distancing either at the metro stations or if there is crowding or trains are getting congested…we might have no option but to review all these arrangements. So I am appealing through the media to all the consumers that while we welcome the resumption of metro services, ...the buzz word is ‘caution’ and ‘care’…,” he added.
The guidelines also said only asymptomatic people will be allowed to travel after thermal screening at entry.
“Symptomatic persons should be advised to go to nearby Covid Care Centre/Hospital for testing/medical attention. Use of Aarogya Setu App will be encouraged,” the SOP said.
The guidelines said that the use of Smart Cards and cashless/online transactions will be encouraged but tokens can also be used with proper sanitisation.
“Adequate time at stations will be provided to enable smooth boarding/deboarding ensuring social distancing. Metro rail corporations may also resort to skipping stations to ensure proper social distancing,” Puri said.
Provision of sanitisers will be made at entry into the stations for use by passengers.