KOLKATA: The Bengal government has requested Metro Railways to run their service on September 13 for the benefit of NEET candidates. A meeting between the state government and Metro authorities was held on Thursday to discuss the modalities of crowd control, which the latter is keen on having in place before resuming services after a five-month hiatus.
The meeting at Nabanna, the state headquarters, started at 11.30am. Among those present were home secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, transport secretary Prabhat Kumar Mishra, police commissioner Anuj Sharma, ADG (traffic) Vivek Sahay, state health secretary N S Nigam and KMC commissioner Vinod Kumar. Metro Railway principal chief operations manager (PCOM) Satyaki Nath led the three-member Metro team.
Crucial logistical and planning details were discussed at the meeting, which lasted an hour. When services do re-start, passengers may have to furnish an e-pass or a smart card to a police officer to enter a station. The policeman would perhaps let them enter only after getting a green light from RPF personnel that passengers already at the station have moved to the platform to board a train. In other words, the state and Metro will have to work together as a team to ensure anti-Covid distancing protocols are stuck to.
Another meeting is scheduled at noon on Friday for the technical committee, which was formed on Thursday with officials from Kolkata Police, the state transport department and Metro Railway.
“The committee will deduce how to control access to stations and implement graded services, considering that 3.5 lakh people may have smart cards,” a senior state official told TOI. Metro wants to allow only smart-card holders; no token will be sold from counters.
It also hasn’t been decided yet whether the Kolkata Metro would run just for that day, or whether September 13 would mark the resumption of regular services.
Whether it will be e-passes or smart cards to ensure legitimate access is something that will be clinched in the next few days. “Initial discussions took place today. There will be some more to finalize the modalities. For elaborate SOPs, two or three more meetings may be required,” Metro Railway general manager Manoj Joshi told TOI. The focus of Thursday’s meeting, he added, was crowd control. It would be the starting point of Friday’s meeting as well.
Joint CP (headquarters) Subhankar Sinha Sarkar and transport commissioner Biswajit Dutta, members of the technical committee, will thrash out the standard operating protocol with their Metro counterparts at Friday’s virtual meeting and decide whether e-passes can be issued to commuters through an app. The draft SOP also includes 8am-to-8pm services, with a third of Metro’s existing fleet of 288 trains, that may be run seven days a week, at a 12- or 15- minute gap. Frequencies will reduce further during weekends.
Standing passengers may be allowed in a Metro coach. “The seats are only on the sides. So, it will be possible for commuters to maintain some distance, even if some of them stand,” a Metro official explained. One thing that emerged from Thursday’s meeting was that while the onus of implementing distancing inside stations and coaches was on the RPF, crowd control at the entries was the state police’s responsibility. While Bengal Police and Kolkata Police would keep guard outside north-south stations, for East-West Metro, the job will be done by the Bidhannagar Police.