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It’ll take more than a pandemic to break down Delhi’s beloved Metro system

Commuters wearing handkerchiefs as masks look at a metro train map at a station, amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) fears, in New Delhi, India, March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
Workers need a map to lead them through the crisis.
  • Manavi Kapur
By Manavi Kapur



If you’d asked a resident of India’s capital in January if the city could do without the Delhi Metro, the answer would have been an emphatic “no.” And yet, residents have been managing for over three months without their beloved mass-transit network, shut since March 22 because of the coronavirus.

As life limps back to normal and shops and offices open up, the Metro still has to work out its safety protocols in order to restart safely as Delhi, with the highest case count of any city in India, tries to contain the spread of Covid-19. Some of the Metro’s most attractive features now pose a challenge—its air-conditioning has been a boon in Delhi’s fiery summers, but is now seen as a big risk because it increases the chances of the virus remaining and circulating in coaches.

Maintaining social distancing at stations could also be a nightmare given the trains carry 4.6 million people a day, leading to people squeezing past one another to get in and out of coaches, as well as serpentine queues at security checkpoints at rush hour. Those would only become worse if commuters have to go through an additional layer of screening for Covid-19 symptoms.

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