People board a mini-van and (below) wait for transport when Metro operation stopped for two hours on Tuesday evening. Pictures by Bishwarup Dutta
A cracked track stalled Metro service between Girish Park and Noapara for over two hours on Tuesday evening, stranding thousands of north Calcutta-bound passengers on roads looking for transport.
Metro officials said a five-inch crack was detected on the Dum Dum line between Sovabazar and Shyambazar stations around 6pm after a driver reported “a jolt” to the station superintendent at Shyambazar.
“The driver felt a jolt while the train was crossing a particular spot in the tunnel between Sovabazar and Shyambazar stations. He informed the station superintendent about it and soon the control room was alerted. A team of engineers inspected the tracks and detected the crack on the one next to the live rail that provides power to the trains,” said a Metro official.
He said temperature fluctuations had caused the damage. “Such cracks are common on open tracks, exposed to the elements,” he added.
The authorities tried to weld the damaged track but abandoned the idea since it was too risky.
“We had to replace the rail because welding is not a permanent solution. It took time to restart services because we had to bring the rail from Noapara, cut it to size and fix it on the track. The process takes time,” the official said.
Normal services resumed at 8.20pm.
Trains didn’t operate between Girish Park and Noapara from 6.14pm, though partial operation continued between Girish Park and New Garia stations.
Thousands of passengers returning home from work had a harrowing time after the city’s lifeline came to a halt.
They jostled to get into overcrowded buses while taxis refused or charged at will.
The road outside Chandni Chowk, Central, MG Road and Girish Park stations were teeming with anxious people trying to hail a cab or get into a bus which were few and far between.
Some boarded mini-vans that ferry goods while others requested private cars or even bikers for a lift.
Many women in saris and salwar kameez hopped on to the goods platform at the rear of mini-vans for a shuttle ride till Shyambazar. Some young women were seen travelling on footboards of packed buses.
Around 7.30pm outside Central station, the road got so congested with waiting people that policemen had to push them to the footpath to clear the thoroughfare.
“I somehow managed to hold on to the rod near the door and climbed the footboard of a bus. One leg was dangling since there was no space for both. Soon I gave up… it was impossible to travel that way. I got down near Calcutta Medical College and Hospital,” said Jayanta Saha, a Nagerbazar resident who works at a private firm at Poddar Court.
Taxi drivers took full advantage of the situation, charging three times the fare.
“A taxi charged me Rs 150 for a 5km ride to my home at Girish Park. I waited a while to catch a bus but couldn’t to board any. I had started walking when I found a taxi but he won’t buzz until I agreed to pay a huge extra,” said 35-year-old Ramen Mondal.