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Scorcher chokes lifeline

Tollygunge station at 9.30am, rush hour. Snehasis Dutta let one train go, then another and finally hopped into the third — an AC rake, one of the 13 that the Metro runs.

The first two trains weren’t full but the third was, still Snehasis and thousands of heat-hammered Calcuttans jostled to get in. The other two were among the 14 ageing and noisy non-AC trains in the Metro fleet.

The scorcher-effect is hitting Calcutta’s lifeline hard, forcing the Metro rail authorities to issue a request. “Please don’t crowd the platform waiting for an AC train. Board whichever train is available and avoid overcrowding,” crackled the PA system. “Passengers are requested not to wait unnecessarily on platforms. Loitering on the platform is a punishable offence.”

Officials said people have been skipping non-AC trains since Saturday, the day the city recorded 39.3 degrees Celsius.

“A non-AC train pulls out of the terminal stations after each AC train. Commuters know this and, hence, they have made it a habit to skip the non-AC trains,” a Metro official said. He said door hydraulics and vestibule plates of AC trains often get damaged because of overcrowding.

Most commuters remained inflexible, though. “How can they expect us to travel in a non-AC train in this stifling heat? I started early today, let the non-AC trains go,” said Snehasis of Tollygunge.