It was until Unlock 3 that metro services all over the nation were at halt despite the fact that other public transport services had resumed. Local bus service (including some of inter-state bus service) is already under operation in many cities including the national capital. Mumbai already has around 700 local trains on its fleet for travel of essential service providers.
It is after the latest decision taken the Central Government to open doors of metro services from September 7 (in a phased manner) under Unlock 4 that the debate of “Life Vs Livelihood” is back in spotlight.
The nation is already experiencing a sharp decline in terms of GDP. Though the economic activities have started, the movement of people in large numbers has led to the demand of re-opening of public transport. Currently, employees of all sectors are now forced to make their own arrangements to reach their workplaces as the public transport systems have been critically regulated the government during the pandemic.
On the other hand, the lockdown has already created a lot of problems for the Metro Authorities that are even struggling to pay off their loan installments. The government has not been so kind to the metro authorities in terms of economic help. DMRC rejected help from the centre as it suggested the DMRC to seek Delhi government’s aid to pay the loans. The Delhi government is already experiencing a money crunch and it is unlikely to help the DMRC on an urgent basis. The same is the case with Mumbai Metro, Bengaluru Metro, Kolkata Metro, Chennai Metro etc.
India is not the first to open Metro Services
For people who think that with the rising number of COVID-19 cases every day in India, is it a rightful thought to open metro for public service, it should be noted that India is not the first such country to do so. Rather, European Nations (who earlier had the highest number of cases and fresh cases are spiking everyday), had resumed metro services long back. Below mentioned are few examples
1. France: Paris Metro
France gradually resumed metro services in Phase 2 of its lockdown easing. Earlier, five million passengers used to ride the metro every day in France’s capital, for a total of more than 10 million journeys taken in a day. Currently about 1.5 million to 2 million journeys are being taken daily, so at maximum only a fifth of the number of journeys that was the norm before the pandemic.
- Some stations remain closed; France Metro Service runs at 75 percent capacity.
- No more than 180 passengers are allowed on the metro, for a total of 32 passengers per carriage.
- The metro premises as well as the rolling stock get sanitized on a regular basis.
2. Germany – Berlin U-Bahn
Germany has been one of the first countries to reopen services after weeks of lockdown.
- The Berlin metro system runs at 100 percent capacity, but the number of passengers remains low.
- Passengers are asked to keep a 1.5-meter distance and encouraged to make use of the entire length of the vehicles
3. London Underground
Transport for London (TfL) operated its services in the worst times of crisis with 60 percent, and currently runs the service at 75 percent of its capacity. Though there was a significant reduction in workforce, the company is encouraged for its tremendous achievement.
4. Italy: Milan Metro
Milan started re-opened its metro system at 25 per cent capacity, with passengers all having to wear face masks and gloves on board on May 18, 2020
- In 36 stations, a system is in place to automatically count passengers as they pass ticket barriers – an additional service beside the checks personnel on site.
- Police officers have been deployed in the most frequented metro stations to enforce social distancing norms among the passengers.
With all the examples cited above, it is necessary to see what key takeaways has the government taken from such examples while deciding to resume metro services in India. While the news is a topic of debate for some, it has provided great relief to people who travel daily for work.