The Telegraph
Friday , October 12 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Metro gasps with footfall surge

When roads get choked, Metro comes to commuters’ rescue.

The city’s transport lifeline, however, is struggling to cope with the sudden passenger surge as the bus-minibus-taxi count steadily declines following a tug-of-war between the operators and the government over a fare hike.

Over the last month, the frequency of Metro disruptions has gone up in keeping with the rise in the footfall.

“The Puja shopping crowd, ailing rakes and teething troubles of the air-conditioned trains are frequently tripping the system. The situation can be worse on the festive days,” an official of the utility said on Thursday. Metro tries to find out what’s wrong with the other Metro.

Why are trains overcrowded throughout the day?

Each rush hour train carries around 3,500 passengers. But over the past fortnight even non-rush hour trains have been ferrying 3,200-3,400 passengers as Puja shoppers bank on Metro in the absence of enough buses, minibuses and taxis.

Metro is now ferrying around 6.6 lakh passengers a day, at least a lakh more than what it used to carry daily a year ago. “Trains are often delayed as doors can’t close because of overcrowding,” said an official.

He warned that footfall could increase by at least 20 per cent during the Puja, stretching the system further.

Why do most stations look crowded?

Several stations do not have enough space to accommodate the additional passengers, resulting in constant overcrowding in front of the ticket counters and on the platforms.

Stations like Kalighat, Jatin Das Park, Rabindra Sarobar, Maidan and Belgachhia lack the infrastructure to handle passengers of trains running at six-minute intervals.

“It takes around nine minutes for passengers of a pair of trains from opposite directions to disperse. However, as passengers of one pair of trains are still standing in queues at the exits, the next pair arrives. This leads to chaos,” an official pointed out.

“We need more gates but there is no space to expand.”

Why cannot more trains be operated?

Apart from a space crunch, Metro is hamstrung by ageing rakes. The air-conditioned rakes that joined the fleet in the past two years are yet to overcome their teething problems. Metro has 28 rakes, of which 20 are operational. “We immediately need to replace at least six non-AC rakes that have outlived their shelf lives,” said the official.