With announcements to maintain social distancing playing constantly in the background, the Delhi Metro, which prides itself as the lifeline of a city constantly on the move, restarted services after five months at 7 am on Monday.
On Day 1, the Yellow Line (Samaypur Badli in Delhi to HUDA City Centre in Gurgaon) began functioning in two time slots — 7 am to 11 am and 4 pm to 8 pm — ferrying limited passengers. In the first batch, it carried 7,500 people.
The Yellow Line and Rapid Metro in Gurgaon were the first to start, with other lines set to resume in batches by September 12.
Metro officials said approximately 15,500 passengers availed of services on the Yellow Line and Rapid Metro till 8 pm. “I am happy Metro started today. Good arrangements have been made. We should not be negligent in following precautions,” wrote Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a tweet.
At Rajiv Chowk, one of the busiest interchange stations on the Metro network, a number of CISF officials were stationed at the entry points of gate 7 to ensure nobody bumped into each other. Only one gate was open, as per the standard operating protocol.
Inside the station, all commuters were first made to sanitise their hands on entry. Officials then used thermal guns to conduct temperature checks, after which sanitiser was provided again. Prior to baggage checks, bags were fully sanitised.
At the frisking points, commuters were told to carry their phones in their hands and metal detection was done without physical contact using modified hand-held machines.
Only those who had smartcards were allowed to travel as the token system has been done away with. Commuters, however, could purchase new smart cards.
Normally bustling with activity, Rajiv Chowk station was relatively quiet. This was a plus for Gyandendra Shekhawat (19), who revised his syllabus on the way to Jahangirpuri, where he was heading to take his DU entrance exam in Bachelor of Management Studies. “Many of my friends have issues commuting but I was lucky since I had to travel from Gole Market, which is not too far from Rajiv Chowk, to the test centre in Jahangirpuri,” he said.
Most commuters had read the guidelines the previous night and were prepared.
Renu Saini (35), a translator in the Defence Ministry, said: “I have always travelled by Metro. Taking buses and autos would set me back three hours and cabs would be very expensive. The Metro costs me around Rs 200 to get to Rohini from Malviya Nagar whereas cabs cost Rs 1,000 at least. It’s good to be travelling by Metro again.”
Many commuters felt the crowds were under control because the Yellow Line was the only one functioning. Sanjay Jain (53), who has a brocade shop in Chandni Chowk, said he expects more people once the other lines open up as well.
Jain, who was travelling from his home in Haiderpur to Chandni Chowk around 10 am, said the benefits of the Metro restarting were two-fold: “It makes my life simpler. I never took a bus; I have always travelled by Metro. So I would go to the market in a private vehicle all these days. Further, the footfall in the market is expected to rise.”
Inside the trains, people refrained from touching the handles and followed the ‘do not sit here’ signs on alternate seats.
Devender Kumar (46), a contractual worker at NTPC, took the train to “assess how long it takes” with the changes in places. Before the Metro restarted, he changed three buses to get from Shalimar Bagh to Central Secretariat.
Minutes before the clock struck 11, officials started asking passengers to exit as the station would shut soon.
A DMRC official said, “There is one entry and one exit point at Rajiv Chowk as opposed to eight gates that previously allowed both entry and exit simultaneously. This is so that there are no collisions. There are officials stationed at numerous points to ensure that the number of people entering a Metro does not exceed 50.”
Under normal circumstances, each train would carry 250-300 passengers.
The reopening also signified a return to normalcy for those dependent on commuters for survival. Auto drivers outside the station said they had already dropped off two-three customers each while a cold-drink stand owner called the Metro a “life-saver”.
Norms in place
# Only one entry and one exit gate open at stations
# Hands and bags sanitised, temperature checks are conducted; scanning is contactless
# Metro card holders allowed. Cards can be recharged through cashless modes; new smart cards available at stations, 1,115 sold today
# In trains, seating allowed on alternate seats. Officials keep track via CCTVs
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