Even though Karnataka has been opening up despite the over 3 lakh coronavirus cases so far, one thing that has been firmly shut since March has been the Bengaluru Metro. The central government has so far not allowed metros services to start running again anywhere in the country.
"If government of India is going to permit, we need to take adequate measures to see that the closed cabins will be safer with regard to the sterilisation and aerosols. Design and redesigning of these cabins can be done. Many of the places already done - I think metro can be a safe space provided we take the precautionary measures and the designs are done to address the concerns," Deputy Chief Minister Dr Ashwath Narayan, told NDTV.
When it does start running again, commuters will see a lot of changes. Speaking to NDTV, Yashwant Chavan, Chief PRO of BMRCL said, "We are ready to run the metro train following all the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). The passengers will be screened and thermal scanned. Hand sanitisers will be in place. And there will be markings for people to follow at the security, the gate or on the platform. Even on the train, the sitting will be as per social distancing norms. Alternate seats will be vacant. And even standing - there will be markings where people can stand. A six-car train which would normally carry 1,800 passengers would be able to carry only about 300 to 350 passengers."
"If there are no major changes in the SOPs, the metro would be ready to run in just about two or three days," he added.
But would passengers be ready to come back into the metro which used to carry lakhs of passengers each day? Mr Chavan agreed there would be hesitation. "Looking at the way the BMTC (Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation) is running now with the buses, there is a mental barrier with people travelling in public transport," he said.
One commuter, Anuj said, "They should not open as the situation is not improving. They should wait till it gets better." Hitesh said, "It may help the virus to spread. I think they should wait until there is w vaccine."
But a woman commuter said, "Only metro has to open now. Everybody is living with corona. We can't do anything. Jayashree said, "How long will people stay indoors? They have to come out and earn their livelihood, so how long will they keep the Metro closed?"
With the metro not running since March, the losses have been huge. Mr Chavan said, "When the metro was running full, monthly revenue was Rs 32 to 34 crore per month. So with the lockdown now for months, we have already lost more than Rs 120 to 150 crore."
Earlier this week, Union Home Ministry sources said metro rail services are likely to be allowed in the fourth phase of unlocking the country from the coronavirus-linked restrictions that is expected to be rolled out by next month. But schools and colleges will still remain shut and restrictions will remain on crowded places like cinema halls, the sources added. The final call to resume metro services will, however, depend on the state governments.