Delhi Metro services a boon but commuters say last-mile connectivity an issue
As the Delhi metro resumed operations partially in the national capital on Monday, many commuters who used the service amid the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic said they were concerned about last mile connectivity to reach their final destinations after deboarding the trains.
On day one, mostly office-goers travelled in the sanitised train coaches of the rapid transit system.
Most of the commuters PTI spoke to at the Kashmere Gate metro station said even though they felt safe and had a comfortable ride in the metro since all precautionary measures were in place, once they deboard the train they may not feel safe taking e-rickshaws, auto-rickshaws or cabs to reach their final destination.
Gautam Kumar, who works at AIIMS, said after getting out of the metro station he has no option other than sharing an e-rickshaw in which social distancing is difficult to maintain.
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"I live in Shahbad Dairy and will have to take an e-rickshaw to return to my home from Samaypur Badli metro station. An e-rickshaw driver usually allows five passengers and no social distancing is maintained and if we raise this issue, the driver would instead tell us to take another vehicle," he said.
"The metro is quite safe. But once I get off the metro, last mile connectivity becomes an issue not just for me but also for many others who don't have an alternative mode of transportation," he said.
Rytham Kaushal, a resident of GTB enclave in northeast Delhi, said, "I went to Connaught Place this morning for some work in an auto-rickshaw. As there are not many people in the metro, I am comfortable to commute in the train. But last mile connectivity is an issue."
She said in public transport, passengers as well as drivers must take adequate precautionary measures to ensure their and everyone else's safety during the pandemic.
"We can take precautions like using hand sanitizer. But if the drivers are not maintaining social distancing, then how would it work. Only passengers taking precautions will not do, even the drivers will have to be equally alert," Kaushal stressed.
The Delhi Metro was closed on March 22 to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and after 169 days it resumed services on Monday in a curtailed manner while adhering to strict safety and social distancing norms. The trains will operate in batches from 7-11 am and 4-8 pm.
Anoop Sikari, who works at Bhagirath Palace in Chandani Chowk said his shift starts at 12 pm and the metro timing is restricted till 11 am.
"Taking an e-rickshaw from GTB Nagar till my home is also an issue once I leave the metro station. They (e-rickshaw drivers) don't follow social distancing norms. They allow five passengers at a time and if you argue with them, they ask you to get down from the vehicle," Sikari said.
Expressing concerns over last mile connectivity, another commuter Vishal Singh, a resident of Dilshad Garden, said he does not prefer to take an e-rickshaw and instead requests his friend to pick him up in case he fails to find an auto or a cab to his final destination.
"Seeing people with masks and gloves has become the 'new normal' due to COVID-19. But while using the metro, last mile connectivity is an issue and I would not take an e-rickshaw or another mode of shared transport. I will ask my friend to come to Kashmere Gate to pick me up or would take a cab or auto," he said.
Rohit Kumar, a resident of Shahdara, said buses would be a good option if they operate on time.
"Even when all metro trains start operating, the issue of last mile connectivity will bother people. I went to IGNOU, Saket, by bus this morning to avoid taking rickshaws or shared autos.
"I have observed that the DTC buses strictly follow social distancing and they don't allow more than 18 people. But the timing of the buses is pathetic. You need to wait for too long. We are just hoping that the situation gets normal again," Kumar said.