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Metro gasps under rally brigade

- Rallyists have a field day while regular commuters suffer in the show of strength
  • Footfall till 6pm on Brigade Sunday: 1.93 lakh
  • Average Sunday footfall till 6pm: 1.49 lakh
  • Number of trains on Brigade Sunday : 92
  • Number of trains on other Sundays: 92

Metro ferried 44,000 passengers more on Sunday than it does on other Sundays but ran the same number of trains.

Result: Trains got overcrowded and left almost every station behind schedule as the doors could not be closed; jawans had to be called in to push the bulging crowd into the coaches; passengers piled up at the stations as trains at times ran at 30-minute intervals instead of the usual 15 on a Sunday.

Metro’s response: There was nothing unusual.

Gariahat resident Goutami Sengupta wouldn’t agree with Metro’s version, though. She skipped a packed train only to get into a more crowded one that arrived 25 minutes late and failed to get off at Esplanade as she could not jostle her way through the crowd to anywhere near the exit.

“The train was so crowded that I could not even move my hands. I felt a man touching me from behind but could not even scream,” said Sengupta, who runs a boutique near home.

“At 2pm, the platform at Rabindra Sadan was packed with passengers and when a train arrived half an hour behind schedule, there was a free-for-all,” said Behala resident Souvick Basu.

Despite the commuter surge, Metro stuck to its Sunday schedule of running trains every 30 minutes from 10am to 2pm, every 15 minutes till 5pm and 10 minutes till 8pm.

Metro did not feel the need to tweak the frequency because there was “no crisis”.

“The rush was for a very brief period and the situation was nothing alarming. Had we spotted a stampede-like situation, we would have stopped ticket sales immediately,” said a senior official.

Outside Chandni Chowk station, a lady was calling her son around 1pm to say: “I thought I’d die on the train.”

Although Maidan, Park Street, Esplanade and Chandni Chowk stations were most crowded because of their proximity to the rally venue, commuters faced problems getting on or off trains at other stations, too, because rallyists were almost everywhere, be it the Kalighat temple or Rabindra Sadan.

Between noon and 4pm, most stations had to keep some of the flap gates open so that those with tokens, including most rallyists, could disperse quickly. Metro employees stood at the gates and collected the tokens. At several stations, queues for tickets snaked up to the road.

Lack of announcements only made the situation worse.

Chaos above

Key thoroughfares like Chowringhee Road, Dufferin Road, Queensway, SN Banerjee Road, Lenin Sarani, Dufferin Road, Elliot Road, Outram Road, Red Road, parts of CR Avenue, Hospital Road and Kidderpore Road were choked with rallyists since 9am. So were the Calcutta-bound ramps of Vidyasagar Setu.

To make things worse, the buses and Matadors that ferried Left Front supporters were parked in two or three lanes on the roads, leaving little space for regular commuters.

According to sources, 2,000 cops were stationed at and around the venue on Sunday, half the number deployed during Trinamul’s Brigade day on January 30.

“The number was inadequate. The arrangement was made on the basis of a special branch report suggesting that the crowd count would not cross two lakh. More than double the number turned up,” said the officer.