Resumption of Delhi Metro services after a 169-day hiatus due to COVID-19 was done “not on consideration of generating revenue or bringing ridership” but to connect people and contribute to the revival of the economy, DMRC chief Mangu Singh said on Wednesday.
In an interview to PTI, the managing director of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation also said that tokens are planned to be brought in use after the pandemic is over, but it is “our attempt to slowly phase it out” and have more smart cards in use.
After being closed for over five months due to the pandemic, Delhi Metro had on September 7 resumed services in a graded manner starting with the Yellow Line, with both the DMRC and commuters treading with caution amid the new normal in the rapid transport system.
“Restarting of services was not done on consideration of generating revenue or bringing ridership. The aim was to allow people to move and go to the workplace while adhering to all COVID-19 safety guidelines. This was done to contribute to economic revival in a way,” Singh said.
And, the current thrust is on ensuring safety and convenience of passengers, he said.
The Delhi Metro had suffered a loss of nearly Rs 1,300 crore during the closure of services due to the COVID-19 situation, sources had earlier said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs had recently issued guidelines allowing the Delhi Metro to resume operations, following which the DMRC had said it would be done in three stages from September 7-12.
On Wednesday, Blue Line and Pink Line resumed services with restricted timings after being closed for 171 days, and on Thursday, Red Line, Violet Line and Green Line are slated to be made operational again.
“People are cooperating in a big way and are satisfied with our arrangements. Not a single violation of not wearing masks or not following social distancing norms has been reported,” Singh said when asked if the response from people was as per the expectations of the DMRC.
He hoped the situation will improve with time.
Asked if tokens are planned to be brought back in use, he said, the step to not allow tokens was taken in the interest of the safety of passengers.
“Once the pandemic is over, it isn’t that we won’t allow tokens, but, our attempt is to slowly phase it out and have more smart cards in use,” Singh said.
DMRC has 10 lines spanning 264 stations.
The COVID-19 situation has impacted the Phase-IV project but the time loss would only be of a couple of months, and therefore “won’t entail much cost escalation”, Singh said, when asked about the impact on Phase-IV.
As part of its graded plan, trains are operating in batches of four-hour each from 7-11 AM in the morning and 4-8 PM in the evening in the first stage.
While nearly 15,500 passengers availed the Yellow Line and Rapid Metro combined on Monday, the figures stood at nearly 17,600 on Tuesday.
On regular days prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, the average daily ridership of the Delhi Metro was over 26 lakh.
“Our whole concentration, efforts are towards ensuring safety guidelines, adherence to social distancing norms, maintaining hygienic conditions, and seeing that passengers don’t face inconvenience at any stage. This is the current thrust,” the DMRC chief asserted.
Singh appealed to commuters to use metro services in a staggered fashion to “break the peak” hour rush.
“Earlier, peak hours of trains were available only in the morning to facilitate office-goers. But, now we have made trains available at a peak frequency at regular intervals throughout the day since daily passenger volume has come down by one-fourth or one-fifth of earlier figures,” he said.
So, people should not rush to stations, and this “break the peak” mechanism has been brought in to ensure social distancing, the DMRC MD said.
Inside stations, train seats, handrails, and other surfaced are being regularly sanitised while coaches get thorough sanitisation and cleaning at depots.
Wearing of masks inside train coaches and station premises is mandatory and those found violating it will have to face challans by authorities.
Social distancing norms have been imposed inside coaches, with commuters directed to choose alternate seats, and not more than three people allowed in a lift at a time.
The stoppage duration of trains at a station has been increased from 10-15 seconds to 20-25 seconds, and at interchange facilities, from 35-40 seconds to 55-60 seconds, to allow commuters to board and alight while maintaining physical distance.
The DMRC while announcing the phased plan of the resumption of services, had appealed to people to use the rapid transport only if urgently needed.
Asked if the travel in metros will be drastically impacted after the pandemic is over, Singh said, “Yes, it will have some impact on us due to new habits inculcated during the pandemic, but it won’t be a drastic change as such”.
“Transport demand will not decrease in the post-COVID scenario, and ultimately people will come back and we will be more or less back to normal,” he said.
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