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Catch last train, miss escalator

A 59-year-old man suffering from asthma had to climb 60 stairs and walk an extra 200 metres on a Sunday night because employees at MG Road Metro station had turned off the escalators and closed all but one exits even before the passengers of the last train had left.

Shri Ram Sikaria, a trader from Burtolla Street in north Calcutta, had boarded the last Dum Dum-bound train from Kalighat and got off at MG Road station at 10.20pm.

“The escalator from the platform to the mezzanine floor was static. So, I had to climb up a flight of about 20 stairs,” Sikaria told Metro on Tuesday. He was gasping for breath by the time he reached the mezzanine floor.

Sikaria usually leaves the station through the Netaji Park gate as it is closer home. But on Sunday night, after crossing the flap gates, he was told by an employee that the Netaji Park gate had been closed.

The trader wanted to speak to the station master to know why the escalator had been turned off and the exit closed even before the passengers of the last train had left. But he was told that the station master had left.

“I had to walk again for 200 metres to the opposite side and climb another 40-odd stairs. I had to rest for several minutes before I could start walking home,” recounted Sikaria, suffering from asthma for 30 years.

Doctors said the heart and lungs of a 59-year-old suffering from asthma would be under stress if he/she were asked to climb 60 stairs. “It’s difficult for the person to climb even 15 steps. But climbing 60-odd steps will put his heart and lung under stress,” said pulmonologist Asok Sengupta. “The person would feel short of breath, dizzy and suffocated.”

The problem is not exclusive to MG Road station.

The last Metro reaches different stations between 10pm and 10.30pm and at many stations, both on the underground and elevated stretches, commuters complain that the Metro employees stop escalators and elevators before the last train enters the platform in order to go home early.

Elderly passengers have to face the consequent ordeal and many allege that no employee could be found near the elevators who could be requested to turn it on.

Sanjay Kumar Basu, 72, a resident of Lake Road, had taken the last train from Park Street to Kalighat station a few weeks back. “I found the escalator on the platform switched off and there was no one whom I could request to turn it on,” said Basu, who suffers from arthritis.

He had to climb the stairs till the main exit and had to rest on the stairs for a while before he could walk back home.

When Metro visited MG Road station around the time Sikaria had got off, the situation was exactly as the trader had described. The escalators at both ends were static and an employee was downing the shutters of the Netaji Park exit.

He replied rudely to a request to open the gate. “What’s the matter? All the others have left,” the employee shouted. When told that all gates were supposed to be open till the day’s last passenger had left, the man did not reply.

When pressed, he reluctantly rolled up the shutter but only about three feet. It would be impossible for an elderly or physically challenged person to bend that low to get through the gap.

Metrospeak

“The employees are supposed to keep the escalators and lifts running till the day’s last passenger leaves the station. Gates, too, are to be kept open till the last commuter has exited,” said a senior Metro official.

“Sometimes the employees turn off the escalators or down the shutters a little early in their hurry to reach home. But that is not allowed. If we receive a complaint, action will be taken against the guilty.”