Metro trains to have contactless ticketing to curb Covid-19 spread
The magnetic-strip smart cards can be recharged and allow automatic fare collection at access gates. In the case of tokens, commuters have to purchase them for single journeys at ticket counters which often see long queues.
Passengers travelling in metro trains may not be allowed to use tokens anymore as Centre plans to implement a contactless ticketing system using only metro cards once restrictions on public transport are lifted.
The central government is planning a slew of measures to introduce social distancing during metro travel and to ensure minimising risk of spreading Covid-19 by managing space between two passengers, zone-wise queueing, screening and controlling crowds at the stations.
These recommendations are part of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for resumption of metro rail services that are being drafted by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
“We are planning to allow the use of metro cards only, make ticketing as contactless as possible and avoid queues at the counter,” a senior official said requesting anonymity.
The Centre has imposed a lockdown in the wake of coronavirus crisis, suspending all public transport till May 3. Metros, along with passenger trains and flights, have been suspended since March 25.
“A review meeting was held on Tuesday by the minister to begin planning on how to run metro services once restrictions are lifted. Please note, services will only resume once the order comes from the home ministry. We have to formulate a plan for whenever services resume,” the official said.
“We will need to manage crowds first and foremost. We will need to manage the frequency of the trains depending on the crowd. Unlike railways, we don’t get reserved passengers and hence can’t anticipate the exact rush. We used to get peak rush at this time of the year due to the reopening of the schools and colleges etc. We are not expecting that this time, but it will also depend on the guidelines that are issued for the resumption of offices,” the official said.
“We will have to plan our trains accordingly and will also have to figure out ways of maintaining social distancing inside the train. We are monitoring what other countries that have resumed services are doing and should be able to factor all that in. Our guidelines will be ready this week,” the official added.
While it remains unclear whether the Centre plans to resume public transport from May 3, the railways and aviation ministries are working on plans to resume services once the restrictions are lifted.
Travelling in train may come with additional measures of social distancing - arriving early at the railway stations, mandatory usage of masks and thermal screening of passengers. These norms are already being followed for special trains deployed for military personnel.
In terms of passengers movement at airports, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is preparing a standard operating procedure (SOP) prescribing strict social distancing norms including leaving the middle seat empty.
A ‘business continuity plan’ drafted by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) has proposed to increase the reporting time for passengers at the airport to 120. The measure has been proposed to ensure smooth passage of travellers through all channels like access control, random screening, check-in, immigration while maintaining appropriate social distance.
An SOP being prepared by the CISF for its security personnel also proposes contactless frisking, the use of Aarogya Setu app to identify Covid-19 patients entering security gates, and reduction in passengers.