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Wetnesday tests lifelines
Track crack stalls Metro

A six-inch crack in one of the tracks stalled the Metro between Girish Park and Maidan for over an hour on Wednesday evening, leaving hundreds of commuters stranded on rain-drenched streets.

Metro Railway officials said the crack was detected on a rail inside the tunnel between Central and Mahatma Gandhi Road stations after a motorman of a Dum Dum-bound train reported a “jerk” when the rake crossed a particular stretch around 8.30pm.

An inspection team from Girish Park station found the fissure about 10 minutes later, prompting suspension of service in the section from 8.50pm. Metro ran a truncated service between Dum Dum and Girish Park stations in the north and between Maidan and Kavi Subhash in the south until the damaged rail was fixed.

The disruption of service hit Metro’s busiest stations — Mahatma Gandhi Road, Central, Chandni Chowk, Esplanade and Park Street — the most as people returning home from Calcutta’s business and office districts were forced to wait in the rain to catch buses and taxis which were hard to come by. Road transport was severely depleted because of the waterlogged streets in many areas, especially in the south.

“None of the taxis is vacant. There is hardly any direct bus to Salt Lake from here. I can take connecting buses but almost all of them are packed up to the footboard,” said Sougata Dey, an employee of a private bank on Brabourne Road, on his way home.

Dilip Haldar had boarded a Metro train at Dum Dum but was told at Girish Park station that it wouldn’t go any farther and south-bound trains would be available only from Central. The Behala resident took a taxi from Girish Park to Central, only to discover that a truncated Metro service was on from Maidan.

Taxi drivers took advantage of the situation and fleeced passengers at will. Shuttle taxis outside Esplanade station charged Rs 50 per person for a ride till Prince Anwar Shah Road.

Commuters jostle to board a bus at 9.49pm on Wednesday at Esplanade. (Bishwarup Dutta)

Sreyoshi Biswas, a resident of Lake Market, recounted the torment she went through for a taxi. “Most taxis refused to go and the handful of drivers who agreed demanded Rs 100 above the metered amount,” she said. Biswas finally went home on a Gariahat-bound minibus.

This was the second instance in less than two weeks that the transport lifeline has failed the commuters. On June 22, a train got stuck in the tunnel while it was pulling into Park Street station.

Metro officials said corrosion or metallurgical fatigue could have caused the crack. “Temperature fluctuations also lead to track damage but this can be ruled out at this time of the year, especially inside a tunnel,” said an official.

A similar crack between Sovabazar and Shyambazar stations had stalled Metro for two hours last month and the damaged rail had to be replaced. “On Wednesday, replacement was not needed as the crack could be welded,” an official said.