New Delhi: Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) officials are trying to work out a commuting model for DTC buses in Delhi with a demand being put forth from several quarters to resume public transport after 17 May, when the third phase of the nationwide lockdown is scheduled to come to an end.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, at a press conference Thursday, said the government was fielding multiple requests to resume public transport, including DTC buses and the Delhi Metro. Kejriwal had invited suggestions from the public on measures and relaxations that should be made in Delhi in the next phase of the lockdown.
Kejriwal added that the government will also forward these recommendations to the central government for approval.
ThePrint has learnt that DTC is considering several commuting models for full operation. To avoid transmission of Covid-19, they are concentrating on social distancing and ensuring buses are not overcrowded.
Delhi Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot said, “We are holding regular meetings with DTC officials to develop protocol for safe public transport in wake of the pandemic. We are preparing ourselves and simply waiting for central government’s guidelines before we resume services.”
More buses, less stops & 20 people per bus
According to transport department sources, DTC will direct all buses to follow an alternate seating model and not more than 20 passengers will be allowed aboard a single bus.
The transport department is also considering limiting the number of stops.
“If a DTC bus follows its regular route from ITO to CP (Connaught Place), there will be several other stops on the way like any public bus. But, maybe now we will have to do away with some of those to prevent crowding and a possible infection/breeding ground,” a senior government official, who didn’t want to be named, told ThePrint.
However, this will require the government to add more buses to the existing fleet as more than 35 lakh people utilise these buses in Delhi every day.
According to a senior DTC official, “So far, there is a fleet of around 4,000 DTC buses and if the social distancing norms are to be followed with only 20 passengers per bus, we will need five times the buses to make it happen.”
DTC Deputy General Manager R.S. Minhas said there were two options before the government to increase the number of buses.
“There are two options subject to approval by the state government, one being we purchase more buses which could take up to a year. The second is we hire private buses, which normally takes three months.”
He added that given the Covid-19 crisis, the formalities for hiring private buses could be completed within 15 days to a month by “working day and night”.
Minhas, who is also a researcher and holds a doctorate in urban transport management, listed out several other concerns.
“Office timings will need to be revised or people will have to work in shifts. Else, DTC buses won’t be equipped to take in peak-hour rush of private offices, government employees, schools, colleges among others in one with reduced passenger count,” the DGM said.
To arrive at an effective model, DTC officials have been engaging in webinars on the impact of the pandemic on public transport globally.
“We have been studying various models, for example, in Russia, UK and Italy, the ridership has been impacted to the tune of 85 per cent, 80 per cent and 90 per cent respectively in terms of the services offered to them,” said a transport department official.
As for the Delhi government’s scheme of free bus rides for women, Minhas said, “That is for the senior authorities to take a call, but we have no problem in continuing with that as long as women are among the first to get on the bus as per social distancing norms.”