Delhi Metro to bar passengers without masks, have longer halting time; contactless frisking likely
Among other measures, red lines have been drawn at regular intervals next to AFC gates and security checking gates, just before commuters enter near the platform areas
New Delhi: Limiting number of people in lifts and longer halting time for trains at stations to allow commuters to board and alight with social distancing norms, are among the measures the Delhi Metro will take to ensure safer travel for its passengers, when services resume on 7 September.
The guidelines issued by the Central Government on resumption of metro services next month came on a day when Delhi recorded its highest single-day spike of 1,954 COVID-19 cases in August till now.
The Delhi Metro has been closed since 22 March in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"As per the latest guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs under Unlock 4, the Delhi Metro will be resuming its services for public from September 7 onwards in a calibrated manner," the DMRC said in a statement on Saturday.
Further details on the metro functioning and its usage by the general public will be shared once the detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) is issued by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in the next few days, officials said.
"We are still awaiting nod for resumption of services. However, all safety protocols have been worked out and some more being worked out so as to ensure maximum safety for passengers whenever services are ordered to be resumed," a source said earlier in the day.
Inside metro premises and train coaches, wearing of masks will be mandatory and social distancing norms will be followed as per the government guidelines, and people not wearing masks will not be allowed to enter metro premises, officials said.
"Trains will halt for longer duration than on regular days to allow commuters to board coaches and alight from it while maintaining physical distance. Also, the number of persons permissible to board a lift will be reduced in view of social distancing, and exact number is still being worked out," the source told PTI.
One train coach has a capacity to accommodate about 50 passengers on seats and a total of nearly 300 riders in the entire compartment, including standing commuters. With social distancing norms, this number will reduce drastically.
From new smart cards with auto top-up facility to stickers on social distancing norms pasted on seats and platform floors, the Delhi Metro is all set to handle commuters in adherence to COVID-19 safety guidelines, whenever the services are ordered to be resumed, officials had earlier said.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had recently said that metro train services in Delhi should be resumed on a trial basis as the COVID-19 situation was improving in the city, and hoped the Centre would soon take a decision on it.
However, the number of fresh cases and active cases have risen in the last several days.
Delhi recorded 1,954 fresh COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest single-day spike in cases in the city in August, taking the tally over 1.71 lakh, while the death toll from the disease rose to 4,404, authorities said.
On preceding two days, cases were recorded in excess of 1,800.
On Thursday, 22 deaths were reported and the daily cases count was 1,840, the highest single-day spike in August till now.
Experts have attributed the rise in cases in the last week or so to reopening of the economy and many people not following the safety protocols and social distancing norms in public.
Sources also said a meeting was held by metro officials on Thursday with security officials, including from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).
Also, before Delhi Metro services were closed in March, a Rs 200 fine was mandated for spitting inside metro properties. However, it is likely be hiked multiple times, sources had earlier indicated.
The economy has slowly opened up in a phase-wise manner in the unlock period since June.
According to the sources, the Delhi Metro has suffered a loss of nearly Rs 1,300 crore since the closure of services in late March due to the COVID-19 situation.
On regular days, the average daily ridership of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) is over 26 lakh.
Awaiting a nod to resume operations, the DMRC in these months, meanwhile, had been training its staff on compliance of COVID-19 safety norms and also on ways to make travel safer for commuters.
Thermal scanners will test temperature of commuters while entering and hand sanitiser will kept for them too.
Delhi Metro authorities have been working on protocols to ensure social distancing norms are in place, which will come handy when commuters return next month, with services ordered to resume in a phased manner.
Seeking to promote greater e-transaction for commuters to avoid physical contact as such, the Delhi Metro on 19 August had announced a new facility that will enable riders to get their smart cards auto-topped up with money at AFC gates.
The old smart card issued by the DMRC can also be upgraded to avail this facility, they said.
"This feature comes handy at these times wherein, commuters are going to follow a new travel protocol, whenever metro services resume, which calls for social distancing and contactless services due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," a senior official said.
Among other measures, red lines have been drawn at regular intervals next to AFC gates and security checking gates, just before commuters enter near the platform areas.
On platform floors, large stickers bearing 'Ensure Social Distancing' message have been pasted at regular intervals, with a while circle bordered by an outer red circle, to alert commuters.
CISF recommends contactless frisking, restricted entry at stations
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, the CISF proposed a slew of measures, including contactless frisking of passengers, who will go through multiple door-sized metal detectors, checking them for fever or flu-like symptoms and restricted entry into Delhi Metro stations.
The paramilitary force that guards the metro network in the National Capital Region has prepared a fresh "business continuity plan" that will be implemented in "consultation" with the urban development ministry and the DMRC.
Encouraging commuters to download the Aarogya Setu mobile app and intensifying electronic and manual surveillance on all activities in metro premises have also been suggested by the force, besides several measures for maintaining social distancing.
The DMRC authorities, however, remain tight-lipped on Saturday whether keeping Aarogya Setu app will be mandatory for travelling in metro when the services are resumed next month.
The plan has been prepared to ensure that the health and security of metro staff and the passengers are not compromised and to enable a sound counter-terrorist cover during the COVID-19 times in the over 230 stations of the rapid rail transport system often called the 'lifeline' of Delhi-NCR.
It also said taht commuters will be asked to take out their metallic items and keep them in their bags and subsequently, they will walk through multiple door-frame metal detectors (DFMD) before they undertake "contactless frisking".
Trays will be provided to those commuters who do have bags to keep their metallic belongings, it said.
A special CISF personnel will monitor the DFMD to "profile" the passenger from the security point of view and physical frisking of a commuter will only take place when there is a "reasonable doubt", it said.
"Contactless frisking shall be carried out by using a hand-held metal detector at a minimum distance of 2.5 cms," the plan said.
It added while passenger bags will be checked as usual through the x-ray scanner, suspicious bags will have to be opened by the passengers themselves for inspection by CISF officials.
Physical distancing norms will be "strictly" enforced inside the station area and a two-metre distance shall be maintained between the frisking and line up points and one a metre distance shall be maintained between passengers waiting at the security point, it said.
The force has said that not all gates of a metro station will be opened and "passenger entry at all times may be restricted to the maximum possible persons keeping in mind the commonly accepted social distancing norm of 2-metre mutual distance amongst persons," it said.
"Entrants with abnormal temperatures shall be denied entry into the system. Likewise, persons with cold, cough and other flu like symptoms shall be denied entry," it said.
The force will also keep personal protective equipment (PPE) suits in the station area to handle "suspect" passengers and bags, and CISF personnel who frisk passengers will wear face shields too apart from the regular masks and gloves as stipulated under the COVID-19 medical protocol.
The force has asked the DMRC to ensure regular sanitisation of their equipment, x-ray area and their gadgets even as it will heavily rely on technical surveillance tools to keep an eye on the activities in and around the stations.
"Electronic and manual surveillance will be intensified to have a close monitoring on all activities in metro premises,"it said
"Passengers shall be advised through regular announcements to maintain social distancing and shops and other commercial establishments will be asked to ensure social distancing at their locations by marking of areas," it said.
The CISF has deployed a contingent of about 10,000 men and women personnel to guard the Delhi Metro network.
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