BENGALURU: After a 54-day gap, the first set of Namma Metro trains commenced operations from the four terminal stations of the Metro network at 7 am on Monday. Though the occupancy levels in Metro trains that ran this morning were quite poor, those on board were a relieved lot as they can now commute faster within the city on a safe mode of transport. According to the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited, a total of 17998 passengers took the train up to 11 am after which operations stopped. After a break, the trains would run again from 3 pm to 6 pm.
Due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, Metro train operations, which restarted on September 7 last year after the first wave, completely stopped from April 28. They resumed this morning with a maximum of 900 passengers permitted in each train. Among them, only a maximum of 136 passengers would be allowed to travel seated due to the need to maintain social distancing.
The New Indian Express reporter and photographer were at the Baiyappanahalli Metro station this morning before the first train could depart. The debut train was definitely not the kind of start BMRCL would have wanted as it ran with zero passengers and three homeguards. Though there were eight passengers waiting to enter the station from the main entrance on Old Madras Road, they could not do so as the security personnel held them back. One of them later explained, "We left behind the handheld detectors used to check passengers. So, one of them has gone to fetch it. We cannot let in people without checking," the staffer said. As a consequence, the first train left from Baiyappanahalli towards Mysuru Road empty.
Among the delighted passengers on board one of the succeeding trains was Pratap K M, an engineer at ISRO. "I have been working three days a week so far taking an auto from my home at Kengeri to the ISRO office. Today, I boarded at Nayandahalli and will alight at CMH Metro station and take an auto to my office there. My whole trip including Metro and auto both ways would only cost me Rs 200. I used to spend Rs 500 a day earlier for travel."
Leela A, who works as a High Grade Accountant at Life Insurance Corporation at Channapatna, said, "After 54 days I am able to commute to my office today as both Metro and KSRTC have started working. I feel 100% safe travelling by Metro. I plan to go upto Deepanjali Nagar, take an auto upto Satellite Bus Station from there and take a bus to Channapatna. I will be able to reach before 10 am."
Advocate Sandeep Shetty, who is heading to the High Court after a long gap on Monday, said, "It is very nice that now Metro trains have started. It is very convenient. Generally I travel by Metro only. It is quicker as well as very cheap for us to travel. What I see in the Metro generally is that people maintain distancing. And even the Metro team out here is very professional. There is a sanitiser outside. They do thermal screening and all kinds of checks."
The sight of the bustling Kempegowda Interchange station looking isolated was shocking. However, the seats on the trains returning from the Kempegowda Interchange Metro station to Baiyappanahalli began to fill up around 8 am.
Commuters too appeared to be taking care with most wearing double masks. A few said they had missed the Metro trains during the shutdown and commended the stringent precautions in place.
Asked about the poor patronage during the opening hours, A S Shankar, Executive Director, Operations & Maintenance, BMRCL, told The New Indian Express, "It is only the first day since we started operations. When we restarted operations on September 7 last year too after a full shutdown, it took some time to pick up. It will definitely improve. Metro service is hygenic, comfortable, quick and safe and we are really glad to restart it today."