Even as Maharashtra continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a growing demand among Mumbai residents to resume the Metro and suburban railway services, especially after the state allowed private offices to operate at 30% capacity from September 2.
Yash Mhadgut, a resident of Mumbai’s Dahisar said his 59-year-old aunt travels from Dahisar to Mankhurd, which takes her 3-4 hours by bus daily.
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“Trains can carry 4,000-4,500 people during peak hours. This will come to around 1,500 with social distancing. A bus can only take 30 commuters. As offices have started opening, companies are asking people to report of work. Its important to resume trains,” said Mhadgut.
Last week, commuters had also staged protests asking officials to start services. However, HT on Wednesday reported that suburban trains are not expected to start till Diwali in mid-November. The services have been shut since March 22 and are currently available only for essential workers.
The state has also not allowed Metro services to start though the Centre issued guidelines to resume them. Srikanth Ramakrishnan, a resident of Andheri, said, “Metro and suburban services need to start with point-to-point services. However, a strict vigil must be kept to prevent overcrowding of trains. Where possible, work from home must be an option and ideally, only those who can’t work from home should be allowed to travel.”
Sources from the Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd. said that the Reliance-Infra-led consortium is facing losses to the tune of Rs 80 lakh to a crore a day owing to the complete shutdown. Officials, however, say that the air-conditioned Metro coaches and crowding at railway stations is a grave concern for the further spread of the virus.
Paresh Rawal, a Mumbai-based transport expert, said, “Demand for local train and Metro service is a very genuine one. When the government has allowed private cars to ply, it is completely unethical on its part to not provide safe and secure public transportation.” He further said that though the government had time to create necessary infrastructure at railway stations, it did not do so.
On Wednesday, both Maharashtra and Mumbai recorded their highest single-day spike of Covid-19 cases with 23,816 and 2,227 fresh cases respectively, taking their respective tally to 967,349 and 160,744 cases. The state also recorded 380 fatalities, including 55 deaths that were reconciled after an update on the India Council of Medical Research website.