BY AAKANKSHA KHAJURIA
With lifeline of the national capital region, the Delhi Metro, resuming its service after a hiatus of more than five-and-a-half-months, Managing Director of DMRC, Mangu Singh, spoke about the challenges faced in the first two days of resumption, measures in place to ensure safety of commuters, crowd control, penalties, among other issues.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation chief in an exclusive chat with IANS said that the Metro will not be able to accommodate more than 12-15 lakh people daily, as against its pre-Covid figures of 60 lakh.
He emphasized that entry points will be temporarily closed if the crowd becomes unmanageable and people’s smart cards will also be blocked in case precautionary measures are not followed during the trip.
Here are the Excerpts:
Q: In the last two days, what major challenges did you face?
A: We were ready for much bigger challenges and were expecting that there would be a lot of crowd and ensuring the social distancing norm would be very difficult. But, the first two days have been satisfactory. There was no violation of social distancing norms or people not wearing masks and the ridership was also not huge. Things are flowing easily, nothing too unusual.
Q: How are you going to accommodate and manage the crowd if it peaks in the coming days?
A: Yes, we think the crowding issue will surface in the next few days and we are expecting more and more people. Before the lockdown, we were carrying 250-300 people per compartment during the peak hours. Now, we will be carrying only 50. Capacity to carry people has been reduced. We, certainly, cannot handle people more than that.
We cannot carry 60 lakh people daily anymore. For us, anything more than 12-15 lakhs per day when the entire network is opened will be unmanageable. That is why we have been requesting people to only step out when required.
Q: What steps will be taken to manage a huge crowd?
A: We have decided not to open all the gates to ensure that the crowd is controlled. We will ensure that more people do not enter the stations. If we realize we cannot manage, we will close the entry points for the public, in a bid to restrict their entry.
If people step out during peak hours, they will suffer on their own account, the gate will remain closed and they will have to wait outside. They will have to weigh their options.
Q: With DMRC increasing the dwelling time at each station and also to sanitize the trains at the terminal stations, the frequency of trains is likely to drop. Will this further result in an increase in crowding at the stations?
A: There are several things which go contradictory to each other. The exercise of opening of gates for fresh air to gush in and sanitisation is also necessary. To some extent maybe the entire running time in the corridor will increase by 10 per cent.
Q: As DMRC pressed on the need to talk less and wear masks in the Metro, who will ensure that it is followed? Has a person been deployed inside the coaches to keep an eye on this?
A: We expect that the metro travelers are relatively more educated and sensible. So, we will keep on educating and requesting them to follow the norms. If need be, our volunteers will ask them to get down and go out of the metro station. Besides this, it is very difficult to do policing. We will have people inside the station, but not inside every train and coach. This is just impractical. We have CCTV cameras in many trains and will be monitoring through that.
Q: What deterrence have been put in place to ensure people who violate the precautionary norms are punished?
A: Our first attempt will be to appeal to people to follow the rules and not penalize them. We believe that people are educated and sensible. But, if the situation comes, people will be asked to go out of the station. More than that, we can block their smart card for five to 10 days. Lodging FIR is impractical.
Q: How often will the DRMC staff be checked for the coronavirus infection?
A: We had sought the antigen kits from the authorities, and they have arrived. Checking the staff members will be a regular exercise. If the staff member is tested today, their turn will come again after 15 days. If they test positive, the Central government’s protocol will be followed, people will be isolated, and stations will be thoroughly sanitized.
Q: Do you think it was a right decision to resume the metro at a time coronavirus cases in the national capital region are peaking?
A: We are not experts in this field and not a body to take a call on resumption. Authorities have decided to open it and it is their call. Studies have been done abroad to establish that public transport does not result in spread of infection. Metros have been plying in many countries. We believe that our system will not contribute to the infection.
(Aakanksha Khajuria can be contacted at email@example.com)