Over 15,000 commuters travelled on the Delhi Metro which resumed services on its Yellow Line on Monday with curtailed operations and a slew of measures for the safety of passengers and employees after hiatus of over five months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The DMRC and the commuters trod with caution amid the new normal in the rapid transport system, which on the first day of resumption did not witness the usual rush, with most stations wearing a deserted look.
Juggling concerns between health and urgency to reach work, most of commuters, however, said they were happy to see the metro back on track. Platforms and key hub stations, including Rajiv Chowk, were mostly empty and the ambience far removed from the usual hustle-and-bustle.
Station employees frequently sanitised areas of the metro station and ensured social distancing norms, even as several commuters said the closure of most entry-exit gates caused delay and inconvenience.
There was no violation of Covid-19 guidelines at metro stations on Monday as no challan was issued by the police. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Metro) Jitendra Mani said the police welcomed the commuters on the first day.
"Not many people turned up due to which big gatherings did'nt take place inside the metro premises. They were told to follow the Covid-19 norms for their own safety. We gave masks to people but most of them were aware and had already taken all the precautions," he said.
Trains operated in batches of four-hour each from 7-11 am in the morning and 4-8 pm in the evening, officials said. The services resumed with strict safety and social distancing measures in place. The first trains left from Samaypur Badli station to HUDA City Centre station and simultaneously from HUDA City Centre to Samaypur Badli at 7 am, a senior official of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation said.
DMRC said approximately 15,500 people availed the Metro service till 8.30 PM on Monday. On regular days, the average daily ridership of the Delhi Metro is over 26 lakhs. No stations on the Yellow Line were closed as none is in proximity to any containment zone, the official said.
As the day began, some riders wearing protective masks were seen entering the premises of key stations like Kashmere Gate and Hauz Khas. On the station premises, passengers were permitted to enter the concourse only after temperature checks with thermal guns and sanitisation of hands.
Hundreds of Delhi Metro ground staff and Central Industrial Security Force personnel wore face shields, masks and gloves as preventive measures against the pathogen.
Inside coaches, commuters sat on alternate seats and maintained prescribed distance even while standing. Stickers were also put up on alternate seats and on platforms so that riders adhere to social-distancing norms. Special posters were put up inside coaches and on station premises to raise awareness, besides regular announcements on safety norms.
In keeping with the new normal, the Delhi Metro took a slew of measures to ensure least physical contact for riders, like automated thermal screening-cum-sanitiser dispenser and lift-calling system driven by a foot pedal at several stations.
Some ridders worried about risks but said they had no other option.
Guarav Chautala (25), a resident of Janpath, who works at a service store of a mobile giant in Gurgaon, said he was a "little apprehensive" to take a metro ride but didn't have any other option.
Asked how he was managing the commute before this, Chautala said, "My brother who works at Naraina used to pick me up and drop me off on his bike to my workplace. It was very tiring. Plus, we had to start from home very early. I'm that glad proper arrangements have been made by the metro authorities."
Officials of the urban transporter had earlier cautioned that "trains may not stop at some of the stations" if social-distancing norms were not adhered to by the passengers.
"This is a new normal and an evolving scenario, so we will anyway be assessing the situation as we go along," an official said. The DMRC has 10 lines spanning 242 stations, and 264 stations, including the Rapid Metro in Gurgaon.
Over a period of next five days, rest of the lines will also be made operational with all safety measures, officials said.
A Delhi Metro employee said he had to spend more time walking to the operational gate of the GTB Nagar metro station as the other gates were closed. The gate nearer to my residence is closed. So, had to walk to gate number 5 which took extra 10 minutes, he said.
A number of people who travelled on the Delhi Metro faced problems buying new smart cards or getting them recharged through cashless modes due to network issues. At many stations, including Central Secretariat, Chawri Bazar, and Chandni Chowk, passengers said there were hiccups while making online payments.
Meanwhile, with the resumption of Metro services, traders raised hopes that it will increase footfall in numbers of customers, which would help them recover from the losses suffered due to the Covid-19 pandemic.