Restart suburban train services with only 20-30% occupancy: TIFRUpdated: Aug 08, 2020 01:08 IST
Researchers from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Colaba, who analysed data of the first sero-survey conducted by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), have cautioned the state government on restarting local trains in full capacity in Mumbai amidst easing of lockdown restrictions. They have suggested running local trains with 20-30% occupancy so that commuters can maintain social distance.
Mumbai and its satellite cities are connected by a network of 3,000 local trains that used to ferry more than 75 lakh passengers until Covid-19 hit the city. At present, both Central and Western Railways are operating around 700 services only for essential staff.
Ullas S Kolthur, professor at the TIFR’s department of biological sciences, and Sandeep Juneja, professor and dean, school of technology and computer science, welcomed the state government’s move to gradually open up Mumbai for economic benefits.
“Medical facilities in Mumbai are increasing as more hospital beds are available for the treatment of Covid-19. Also, with rising awareness, people are using masks and maintaining social distance, which has lowered the prevalence of the virus. Thus, a small amount of economic opening up can be absorbed by the medical system,” said Juneja on the sideline of an online discussion on the sero-survey findings.
Due to overcrowding in local trains, Juneja said typically 14 passengers travel per square metre, making it impossible to maintain social distance. “We need to maintain one-metre distance to stop further spread the virus. Thus, the trains should run at 20-30% occupancy. The procedure to start local trains should be slow. It can be increased further based on the observed infection rate,” he said.
To prevent overcrowding, currently, only essential staffers, defence personnel, employees of the Central government, income tax, GST and customs, postal departments, nationalised banks, Mumbai Port Trust, judiciary and Raj Bhavan are allowed to travel in local trains.
Health activists supported the suggestion of 20-30% occupancy. “Considering the huge population of Mumbai, it is essential to keep a check on local trains. If the state government completely opens up trains in a hurry, it can lead to a second wave of the pandemic. After coming so far, we have to be more cautious,” said Dr Ravikant Singh, a health activist.