After a gap of nearly five months, the metro bus service between the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi resumed on Wednesday morning.
However, only a fraction of people who used to regularly frequent the service were able to avail it on Wednesday while strictly observing health guidelines.
Over 70 buses of the Metro Bus Service, which had been parked in two car parks in the federal capital, started running between the myriad of stations on its dual-track route on Wednesday, ferrying passengers.
Only 15,000 passengers commuted on the Metro Bus Service (MBS) between the twin cities on Wednesday due to the restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Normally, the service would cater to over 100,000 passengers a day.
Earlier on Tuesday, while announcing to resume the service, the MBS authorities had outlined strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for preventing the spread of the virus while using the service.
This included the wearing of face masks and maintenance of social distancing.
For this purpose, distance markers have been placed at all terminals while sanitizers have also been placed at different locations. Banners inscribed with precautionary guidelines have been installed throughout the stations.
Metro Bus Authority (MBA) Senior Manager Shumaila Mohsin confirmed to The Express Tribune that every passenger was sanitised before they got on the bus.
She added that despite the heat, air-conditioners on the bus were kept shut but windows of the buses had been opened for ventilation. The washrooms were equipped with soaps and uninterrupted water supply was also ensured.
Further, she said that social distancing protocols were ensured while passengers purchased tickets at the booths, waited for the bus to arrive at the terminals, and while getting off the bus at their destinations.
Female passengers were advised to use the front door for entry and exit while male passengers only used it to board the bus and used the centre door to disembark at their respective destination, she said.
To prevent the crowding commuters were told to stand back from the door of the bus at the terminals.
The vehicles were then disinfected after completing each trip.
The service had been shut on March 23, along with much of Islamabad and Rawalpindi as the government imposed a lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. In the subsequent months, not only did the service stay shut as part of the lockdown, its staff had to face a 25 per cent pay cut as the authority suffered losses. The metro bus authority also withheld payments to many employees as its financial crunch worsened.