Trains have been routinely overshooting two shorter-than-stipulated platforms on Metro Railway’s Tollygunge-Garia Bazar extension, thankfully without the tragic consequences of the plane that overshot Mangalore airport’s tabletop runway last weekend.
The 163.28-metre platforms at Netaji (Kudghat) and Gitanjali (Naktala) stations — 6.72 metres short of the standard 170-metre length of the other 19 stations — often force the drivers to bring trains back a few metres after stopping so that passengers can get off safely, according to a complaint by the employees’ association.
The length of an eight-coach Metro rake is 162.4 metre, which leaves virtually no “buffer space” on these two platforms for motormen to stop the train where it should, said a driver who didn’t wish to be named.
“The danger in this case is of passengers falling on the tracks if a human error leads to the doors of a train opening before the coaches can be aligned properly with the platform,” the driver warned.
Netaji and Gitanjali are among the five stations added to the old Dum Dum-Tollygunge route last year, though the last one — Shahid Khudiram (Birji) — is being used only as a track-change station for empty trains.
Sources said there have been several instances of up to two coaches overshooting the shorter platforms at Netaji and Gitanjali since railway minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurated the extended southern section of the city’s transport lifeline on August 22, 2009.
“In all these cases, drivers have had to act promptly and inform the motormen controlling the doors from the rear of the rakes not to open these because of the risk of passengers falling on the tracks. We are just lucky that no mishap has occurred so far,” said a member of the employees’ association.
At least one incident at Netaji station, however, did set alarm bells ringing in the Metro Railway headquarters. That was when a train overshot even the light signal installed approximately 10 metres from the edge of the platform.
An internal inquiry into that incident is underway, officials confirmed.
Apart from being a hazard, trains overshooting platforms are responsible for schedules going haywire during peak hours.
“For each such incident of a train overshooting the platform, it is delayed by five to seven minutes. That has a cascading effect on train movement all along the route,” an official said.
So is Metro Railway considering extending the length of the platforms? “We have written to the authorities about this but they have paid no heed to our complaint,” said Dilip Mukherjee, the general secretary of the Metro Railwaymen’s Union.
“A platform needs to be of adequate length for smooth running of trains as well as passenger safety. But that is not the case in these two stations,” he added.
But officials at Metro Railway’s headquarters insisted that all safety parameters had been met and were being maintained. “We have followed all norms and there is no passenger hazard that we know of. If at all there are any technical problems, we will discuss these with the motormen and other technical staff so that we can solve them,” said a Metro spokesperson.
The official said the signalling system would be overhauled soon to make Metro Railway safer for passengers. “The auto signalling system is due to be installed before Puja. It will increase the pace of train movement apart from enhancing safety standards,” he added.
The motormen who marshal the ageing rakes — most of them over 25 years old — have a different story to tell, though.
“How can they expect us to compromise on the buffer space of at least 5m for accurate stopping? At Netaji and Gitanjali, the length of the platform and the trains are almost equal. It is unfair to expect motormen to bring trains to a halt accurately every time,” said a veteran driver.
Each Metro train carries 2,000 to 2,400 passengers on an average.