Queues outside Metro stations, which have often stretched for hundreds of metres in the past weeks, are likely to get slightly shorter from Monday with the Delhi Metro allowing passengers to occupy all the seats in each train, as it lifted the 50% cap on seating that was in place to ensure distancing inside coaches.
However, standing is still not allowed inside trains, according to the guidelines issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) on Saturday as part of its phased relaxations of curbs in place to thwart the spread of Covid-19.
“In view of the revised guidelines issued by the government yesterday (July 24), wherein, travel in the Delhi Metro has been permitted from existing 50% of its seating capacity to 100% with ‘no standing’ travel from tomorrow (July 26) … DMRC would like to reiterate and make it clear that from Monday, even with these revised guidelines, a maximum 50 passengers per coach are permitted, as against 300 prior to Covid-19,” said Anuj Dayal, executive director at DMRC, in a statement.
DDMA on Saturday allowed multiplexes, swimming pools, spas, auditoriums and entertainment parks to open in the Capital from Monday, and lifted seating limits on the Delhi Metro and public buses, effectively relaxing most restrictions after a decline in Covid-19 cases following a deadly fourth wave of infections.
The statement added, “Entry to stations therefore [will] continue to be regulated. As a result, though the queues may reduce slightly, but they might still be there outside stations, especially during peak hours owing to the compliance and adherence to the Covid appropriate behaviour inside Metro premises as per government guidelines.”
Vikas Yadav, 29, a frequent commuter on the Metro, said he was unsure if the updated Metro guidelines will have any impact on the queues outside stations on working days, especially during the peak hours. “On working days, the situation is certainly more stressful. One has to wait in queues outside stations such as Janpath or Rajiv Chowk for nearly an hour to enter the station in the evening hours. I am not sure if increasing from 50%seating capacity to 100% would make any visible difference in the queues outside metro stations,” said Yadav.
Officials said the alternate seating aboard coaches was often violated. As a result, after being shut for a brief period in light of the fourth Covid-19 wave in Delhi in April, when Metro services were permitted to resume in June, authorities decided to regulate footfall inside stations itself to adhere to the 50% capacity rule, a move that led to serpentine queues outside stations.
The same 50% cap on seating applied to public buses before the Saturday relaxations as well, but is much more difficult to implement in bus stands, which are unregulated and unguarded, said transport officials. “Buses were crowded even when the seating cap was in place. So, increasing it to 100% will not make any difference in this case. The rule is hardly followed during peak working hours,” said Radheshyam Kumar, a regular commuter on the 740 route connecting Uttam Nagar with Anand Vihar.
HT travelled on public buses on several routes criss-crossing east, west, south and north Delhi between Friday and Sunday and witnessed passengers beyond sitting capacity in a few cases on the evening hours of Friday, which was a working day. On weekend days most buses could visibly adhere to the seating capacity rule.
“The buses have a driver and a conductor. When seats are full, we have been directed to not open doors. But it gets difficult during working hours when you have a few seats and an open gate at a crowded bus stand. And a large number of people end up boarding the vehicle. There is no practical way to manage it,” said a bus driver who did not wish to be identified.
A senior Delhi government official said, “We have come across instances of such violations and have taken the matter into consideration. Civil defence volunteers and home guards will be deployed in the crowded bus stands from Monday to regulate crowds and ensure that the seating capacity rule is adhered to.”
(With inputs from Sadia Akhtar)