CPPR Chairman Dr D Dhanuraj comments in a news article published in The Times of India on the state government’s move to get Kochi Metro resume its operations. He says “The immediate focus of the state government should not be on resuming Metro services, the government should be looking for more viable options of public transport”

Image source: The Times of India

With the number of Covid-19 cases increasing in Ernakulam district, the state government’s move to get Kochi Metro resume its operations could give a setback to the efforts taken to tackle the spread of the disease. Sources with the state government said that Kochi Metro is designed as a mass transport system and practising social distancing norms inside the trains would be a tedious process and would not be a viable financial option for Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL). State government had sent a letter to the Centre seeking permission to resume Metro operations.

KMRL spokesperson said that they are yet to get permission to resume operations. “We are prepared to start services. However, we have not received any guidelines to conduct operations,” he said.

It is pointed out that the total carrying capacity of a Metro train is 975 passengers, including standee passengers. The seating capacity of a Kochi Metro train is 136. A train has three coaches, and in each coach, they can seat approximately 45 passengers.

“In the context of Covid-19, Kochi Metro will not be able to fill all the seats with passengers. The KMRL will have to ensure that commuters practice social distancing in trains. That will further bring down the number of commuters travelling in the train. Moreover, it will not be possible to carry standee passengers as they will have to hold on the straphangers and other handrails, which will increase contact with train surfaces. In short, the number of passengers travelling in a train will be limited to approximately 45, and each coach will have approximately 15 passengers sitting,” said a senior official who is familiar with Kochi Metro.

Sources with the government say that if Covid protocols get violated it could even result in Metro becoming a platform from where the virus could spread.

“Unlike KSRTC, private buses or other public transport systems, management of commuters inside Metro trains will be more complicated,” said the official. In buses or other transport systems, based on the availability of seats, when a passenger gets down from the vehicle, conductors can decide on how many passengers can enter the vehicle.

While KMRL can check temperature and get the details of each passenger entering the train, provide sanitizers, ensure masks and other Covid-19 protocols, they will have a tough time roping in passengers. D Dhanuraj, chairman of citybased think tank Centre for Public Policy Research, said that the immediate focus of the state government should not be on resuming Metro services. He said that the government should be looking for more viable options of public transport. “In these days of crisis, it appears that KSRTC buses can do a better job. While private buses encourage crowding, KSRTC buses are effectively functioning following Covid-19 protocols,” he said, adding that Metro services can resume “once the threat of Covid-19 is brought under control”.

However, he also said the government needs to release data on the number of Covid positive cases in the state, which has been linked with public transport systems.

This news article was published in The Times of India on July 19, 2020. Click here to read

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