Mumbai: Crowds may thin in public transport post new COVID guidelines

Crowds were bit less on Monday using public transport though the lockdown guidelines were to implement from 8pm on April 5. The authorities expect a big dip from Tuesday when the new lockdown guidelines become applicable in full scale as non-essential offices, retail shops and other enterprises have been asked to shut physical work places.

To begin with, the local trains will be operated by the Central and Western Railways as per schedule that they have been operating at 95 percent capacity till now. The railway officials said that they will operate their trains as per schedule although they will be available only for those people allowed to travel by the Maharashtra government.

Sources said that the ticket checking staff and RPF have been asked to check ID cards of those on essential duties. However, passenger associations claim that there is confusion among people as they do not know if they are permitted to travel between noon and 4pm and after 9pm as defined before this new guideline. As it is there is a lockdown from 8pm to 7am starting April 5. The increase in local train services is said to be a major contributor towards the increase in Covid-19 cases.

“We have been getting questions from people about train travel. We understand that with this new guideline, people will work from home and expect crowds to come down inside local trains,” said Lata Argade, secretary, Suburban Railway Passengers Association.

The Metro-1 operating on Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar route will run at lesser frequency of anywhere between 8 and 12 minutes from April 6. Until now they were operating 280 trips at every 4 minutes. Sources said that they will also reduce the number of trips which is being worked out.

Meanwhile on April 5, there seemed confusion amongst BEST Undertaking. While the authorities claimed that the new guideline was implementable from Monday evening; the depot managers started taking action from Monday morning itself. The buses were running full though it didn't seem overcrowded. At some locations, there were staff standing and instructing passengers, some buses weren’t halting at bus stops leading to crowds.

Most importantly the BEST officials are worried about wet lease buses which do not have conductors and there is little control on them. As per the revised guidelines, people can only sit in buses, both BEST and private ones. New rules were put in place at various bus depots which stated; buses should be operated with seating capacity only and no standees will be allowed.

Sources said that Depot officers inform each and every staff about the orders at the turning out gate before leaving the bus from the depot. And finally, officers and inspectors will be posted at heavy loading points to ensure compliance of these orders. Meanwhile the auto and taxi unions claimed that there was less demand seen on the road.

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