The Centre on Wednesday released the Standard Operating Procedures for the resumption of metro rail services during the coronavirus outbreak. All states with metro connectivity, except Maharashtra, are set to begin operations from September 7.
Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri said multi-route metro networks will resume services from September 7 in a graded manner. The aim is to make all lines operational by September 12, he added. However, metro stations in containment zones will continue to remain closed.
Singh added that SOPs have been finalised following discussions with the managing directors of 15 Metro rail corporations on Tuesday, and have received the approval of the Union home ministry.
Under the Centre’s guidelines, masks will be mandatory for everyone. Only asymptomatic commuters would be allowed to travel after thermal screening at entry points of the station. Those who are found to be symptomatic would be advised to go to nearby Covid Care centres or hospitals for testing and necessary medical attention.
Frequency of trains would be regulated to avoid passenger crowding at stations and in trains. The authorities will make suitable markings at stations and inside trains to ensure norms of physical distancing are followed. They will also provide sanitisers at the entrance gates of the station, the Centre said.
Passengers were encouraged to use Metro Smart Cards or make online transactions to buy their tickets, the guidelines said, adding that the tokens/paper slips given to commuters must be used with proper sanitation. Besides this, passengers were also encouraged to use the Aarogya Setu App for contact tracing.
Authorities will provide adequate “dwell time” at stations to enable smooth boarding and to ensure physical distancing, the Centre said. Metro rail corporations may also resort to skipping some stations to ensure proper physical distancing, it added.
The Centre said that based on these guidelines, Delhi, Noida, Chennai, Kochi, Bangalore, Mumbai Line-1, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Maha Metro (Nagpur), Kolkata, Gujarat and UP Metro (Lucknow) have prepared their SOPs.
Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Chief Mangu Singh said only the Yellow Line from Samaypur Badli to Huda City Centre would be made operational from September 7, reported PTI. Normal services would resume from September 12, he added.
“In first stage, Delhi Metro services will operate in two shifts – 7am to 11 am and 4 pm to 8 pm,” Singh said. “In phase one, we are planning to start Yellow Line from Samaypur Badli to Huda City Centre. In phase two, on September 9, we will start three more lines, Blue Line, Pink Line and Gurgaon Line.”
A separate gate will be marked for exiting the station and only cashless transactions of tickets will be allowed. Metro stations in Covid-19 containment zones will remain closed based on Centre’s guidelines, Singh said.
A new type of smart card, called “Autope”, which can be linked with bank accounts, will also be available, according to The Indian Express. Alternate seats will have to be left vacant and a distance of one metre will have to be maintained between two persons standing.
Bengaluru Metro, or Namma Metro, will resume operations from September 7 in a graded manner,. According to its SOP, the number of commuters will be restricted to one-third of capacity in a six-coach train.
Thermal screening of all passengers will be carried out at the entrance and only e-tickets will be issued. Commuters have also been advised to download the Aarogya Setu app. The Bangalore metro rail service has a total of 44 stations.
The Hyderabad Metro, which is the country’s second largest rapid transit network, in its SOP said that all guidelines of the Centre will be strictly adhered to.
“Enough care will be taken to follow proper sanitisation, maintain social distancing in metro trains and stations, enough ventilation, pumping more fresh air into trains, improving air conditioning mechanism, etc,” Hyderabad Metro Rail Limited’s Managing Director NVS Reddy told The Indian Express.
In Chennai, only three passengers will be allowed to sit in a seven-seater bench inside a coach, while only one passenger will be allowed on other seats, according to the SOP.
Besides this, only four people at a time will be allowed to use the escalator. Trains will run every 10 minutes during peak hours and every 15 minutes during non-peak hours.
The Chennai Metro Rail Ltd has also installed foot-operated lift to avoid contact with the elevator buttons.
The Centre had announced that metro rail services across the country will be resumed on September 7, as part of “Unlock 4.0”, the fourth phase of the easing of lockdown restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Schools, colleges, institutions, indoor theatres and swimming will remain closed till September 30. Further, states and Union Territories have been directed not to impose any lockdown outside containment zones without prior consultation from the Centre. International air travel remains banned except for the air bubbles already in place.
India’s coronavirus case count reached 37,69,523 on Wednesday after 78,357 new cases were registered in 24 hours. The toll rose by 1,045 to 66,333. There are 8,01,282 active cases, and more than 29 lakh patients have recovered.