Three Metro Railway personnel desperately dug out tokens from the exit flap gates, put them in buckets and ran to the ticket counters as the passenger queue snaked out of the Dum Dum station premises on Wednesday afternoon.
Failure to inject the tokens back into the system rapidly — a problem since the tokens replaced paper tickets in August 2011 — came back to haunt Metro on Wednesday as hundreds of passengers at Dum Dum were delayed nearly half an hour from 1.45pm as the counters ran out of tokens.
Metro sources said a shortage of “commercial porters”, who retrieve tokens from the dispensers and feed those back to the system led to a shortage of tokens at the counters. Added to this, the back up tokens did not reach Dum Dum on time from other stations.
On an average, 15 porters are on duty at any given time in Dum Dum. The porters not only retrieve tokens from dispensers but also go to other stations to bring buffer stock. On Wednesday afternoon, there not enough porters as some were off duty, said sources.
“This dual problem and a sudden spike in passengers in the non-peak hours, led to chaos for about 20 minutes. It was resolved soon after buffer tokens were brought into the system from the headquarters at Park Street,” said a Metro spokesperson.
However, sources said, the problem persisted for longer with those issuing tokens at the counters slowing down because of lack of supply.
Around 2 pm, the serpentine queues at the four ticket counters extended to the middle of the market outside the station. “I stood in the queue for more than 10 minutes and it was just not moving. There were at least three Metro personnel desperately digging out tokens from the dispensers at the exit flap gates and rushing back to the counters,” said Kaushik Bose, a passenger.
According to sources, Dum Dum sent a token SOS to the control room and sought immediate refill. Hundreds of tokens, kept at the Park Street depot, were then sent on a train to Dum Dum.