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Govt mulling news SOPs as metro services see sharp increase in ridership


NEW DELHI: A month after metro services in the capital resumed with strict Covid-19 protocols, a sharp increase in ridership, especially during peak hours, has pushed the central government to consider fresh standard operating procedures (SOPs) to keep the numbers within safe limits.

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), which restarted partial services after six months on September 7, has seen an increase in number of people taking trains with the ridership climbing to 1.25 million on Friday.

“We will need to consider new SOPs for operating metro to cater to the demand,” Union housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Puri told ET.

As per protocols set by DMRC with social distancing measures in place, the daily ridership should be one-fifth of the pre-Covid numbers, which is about one million. The pre-Covid ridership was 5-6 million per day.

Social distancing norms have been introduced with alternate seats occupied and increased stoppage time at stations to ensure coaches are not overcrowded.

As per DMRC, there are at least five lines where occupancy touches 100% during morning and evening peak hours. The same sections see occupancy of 30-50% during off-peak hours.

Though the ridership is much less than the pre-Covid levels, it has triggered alarm bells as any potential increase could be a health scare.

“This could be a potential health risk,” a senior DMRC official said. “We need to be careful. So, increasing the numbers allowed (inside coaches) is not an option.”

The options on the table include staggering the peak hours and strict implementation of the rule on maximum number of people allowed inside the station and the trains at a certain time.

Changing peak hours of travel is being studied by the ministry.

With resumption of metro services, DMRC had introduced peak hour frequency of trains between 8 am and 8 pm. This meant running more trains for 12 hours rather than following the pre-Covid concept of fewer trains between 11 am and 4 pm (considered off-peak hours). Sources said the option would be to introduce peak hours from 7 to 10 am and once again from 5 to 8 pm.

Another option would be to stop entry of people in stations beyond a certain limit during peak office hours.

“This would have an automatic impact once it is implemented,” a person in the know said. “Once the entry is stopped, people would not like waiting in queues outside the metro station.”

The government is also considering mass awareness campaigns to educate people to delay or advance their time of travel to avoid peak hours.





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