No-go for Mumbai local trains yet; new rules for taxis, autos soon
Four months after the lockdown was imposed in the city to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, public transport is unlikely to resume on a full scale any time soon.
Local train services, which are otherwise used by around 80 lakh passengers daily, continue to remain suspended for commuters, except those working in essential services. Experts have suggested that the Railways should not resume local train services for the general public until September.
Since June 15, Western Railway (WR) and Central Railway (CR) have been operating nearly 700 services for essential service providers.
Within the city, Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) resumed partial operation of its bus services since June 1. It has started operating 3,200 buses daily, with only 30 passengers allowed per bus.
Black and yellow taxis and autorickshaws in the city are operating with only two passengers per vehicle and can carry only people working in essential services and in cases of emergency. Emergency travel has only been allowed by mobile application-based cabs.
The state government has formed a transport task force to suggest a plan to resume regular services of taxis and autorickshaws in the city. According to a member of the task force, they have already submitted their suggestions to the state government.
“An announcement by the state government regarding the operation of taxis and autorickshaws will be made soon. Suggestions have been submitted.” said the task force member.
Rail commuters will have to wait longer to use local trains though. “There have been no discussions on the starting of local train services for the public in the city. The cases are decreasing in the city, but the situation in other regions outside Mumbai should also stabilise before resuming train services.” said a senior CR official.
Railway and transport experts have suggested that the Railways not resume local train services until September. Experts have also suggested that air-conditioned (AC) local trains should not be operated till the Covid threat is under control.
“Fresh air circulation on a non-AC train is much higher and decreases the chances of the virus spreading. Maintaining social distance inside local train compartments will not be possible, so the railways should focus on temperature screenings and mandate masks inside the compartments. Train services should not resume until September,” said Subodh Jain, former railway board member and ex-general manager of Central Railway.
Transport experts have also suggested that the Railways could explore the option of allowing one person per week inside the compartments. “Railways can explore the option of allowing railway pass-holders to travel only once a week. This way, people can complete their chores. There should also be services provided between Borivli and Virar,” said transport expert AV Shenoy.
Meanwhile, CR and WR are undertaking various measures to maintain social distancing and safety on suburban and outstation train stations. It is now mandatory for essential service employees to produce QR-based e-passes to travel by local trains. Outstation train passengers will also have to undergo thermal screenings.
CR has developed a mobile application under corporate social responsibility (CSR) for outstation train passengers, through which tickets can be checked. The railway also plans to introduce flap gates at which the QR codes on passengers’ tickets will be scanned, before allowing them to enter the station.
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