Social distancing easy as metros run nearly empty


Commuters in Delhi and Gurugram say they are satisfied with safety precautions in place at stations and on trains

The Delhi Metro opened to a lukewarm response from commuters on Monday — five months after it came to a halt due to a lockdown following COVID-19 outbreak.

As part of its graded resumption with staggered timings, the first lines to resume services were the 49 km Samaypur Badli-Huda City Centre corridor (Yellow Line) and the 12 km Rapid Metro in Gurugram — operational from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.; and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The Rapid Metro network, mostly catering to Cyber City and Golf Course Road, witnessed almost nil ridership.

Most commuters welcomed resumption of metro services saying they would save time and money, and added that they were satisfied with the safety measures in place to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

Pooja Soni, an art consultant, said: “Initially, I was apprehensive and had thought that the temperature checks would not be done properly. But then I saw that every rule is being followed quite strictly. As long as one does not step into crowded coaches and so on, it should be fine.”

The Hauz Khas station, a major interchange between the Yellow and Magenta lines remained nearly deserted.

Shrishti Sharma (28), travelling from the station to Central Secretariat, said: “I am a regular metro commuter and I have never seen this station empty. For the first day, all arrangements and precautions look fine. We can only hope this will continue and everyone will follow the rules.”

Motiur Rahman, another passenger travelling from the Hauz Khas station to Gurugram, said: “Even though the number of COVID-19 cases are increasing, ultimately we need to take care of ourselves. Additionally, with the state of the economy, it was imperative that metro services resume so that some revenue can be generated.”

With a drastic reduction in the number of commuters, social distancing on the first day was not an issue. Carrying capacity of trains have also been reduced to 20% of pre-lockdown period.

Ashu Panwar (22), a resident of Shahdara, said she had to shift to Gurugram a few weeks back as it was not feasible for her to make the daily commute to work.

A special needs children educator, Ms. Panwar said she could now return to Delhi and stay with her family.

“As soon as I entered the station, the staff checked my temperature, sanitised my hand bag and asked me to sanitise my hands. Only four people were travelling in my coach so social distancing was not an issue,” she added.

At the HUDA City Centre metro station in Gurugram — one of the busiest stations with a footfall of around 1.5 lakh daily prior to lockdown — metro employees and media persons outnumbered commuters.

Many unaware

While there was heavy deployment of Delhi Metro staff and volunteers, many reaching the stations were not aware of the scaled-down operations and restricted timings. At the entry gates, passengers were also asked to show their status on the Aarogya Setu app.

With tokens being discontinued and recharge facilities of smart cards made completely cashless, many commuters returned dejected.

Satya Narain (65), was left stranded at HUDA City Centre metro station after staff refused to accept cash in return for a Smart Card.

Not all were on board with resuming services.

Hemant (31), an IT engineer, said that opening the metro was not a good idea with cases on the rise.

He said he would avoid travelling by buses or metro trains till the time the corona scare lasted.

“I have taken the metro because my motorcycle broke down today,” said Mr. Hemant, on his way to work in Delhi from Gurugram’s IFFCO Chowk metro station.

Meanwhile, the Noida-Greater Noida Aqua Line, which also resumed services on Monday, saw a ridership of just around 600 passengers till 8 p.m.

The 389-km Delhi Metro network, including Rapid Metro and Noida-Greater Aqua Line, will become fully operational by September 12.

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