Metro Railway can’t stay awake past 10pm without making its employees work for more than the stipulated eight hours a day.
Junior railway minister Adhir Chowdhury had promised that the last Metro train would leave the terminal stations at both ends at 11pm, only to announce on Tuesday that the timing had been extended by a mere 10 minutes.
From March 25, the last train from New Garia and Dum Dum stations will set out at 9.55pm instead of 9.45pm and terminate at 10.45pm.
The morning schedule from Monday to Saturday has been extended by 15 minutes. The first train will start at 6.45am, 15 minutes ahead of the current start of service at 7am. Sunday’s 10am start has been advanced to 9.50am.
“We felt that the Metro needs to operate for longer to cater to the demand of the people. We discussed it with general manager Rajeev Bhargava and have extended the timings,” minister Chowdhury said at a programme at Esplanade station.
For a city that works and stays out much longer, a 10-minute extension of service would mean little. Delhi and Bangalore run the Metro longer than Calcutta.
In Delhi, the yellow line that runs from Jahangirpuri in the north to Gurgaon in the south and the blue line that operates from Dwarka in the west to Noida in the east have trains till 11.30pm.
The earliest train on the blue line sets out before sunrise from Dwarka at 4.42am to the business and office hubs of Noida. The first train on the north-south route starts at 5am from Vishwavidyalay and goes till the business district of Gurgaon. All other morning trains start latest by 6am.
In Bangalore, which commenced Metro operations in October 2011, the first train sets out at 6am and the last at 11pm on the busy route from Peenya Industry to Mantri Square-Sampige Road.
Delhi and Bangalore apparently don’t have a manpower shortage that necessitates making the existing set of employees do extra time.
In Calcutta, Sisir Chandra Majumdar, a leader of the Metro Railway employees’ union, said: “We have opposed the efforts to extend the work timings beyond eight hours. That would be against the law.”
Sources said the junior railway minister’s promise of keeping the Metro awake till 11pm was discussed at a series of meetings involving officials of Metro Railway and the Railway Board.
“The general manager held meetings with all the departments to assess the resources and arrive at a decision on the timings,” a source in the Railway Board said.
The consensus at these meetings was that it was impossible to run the Metro for an extra hour at night with the existing manpower.
At present, 350 Metro Railway employees work in two shifts of eight hours each. “From 6.45am till 10.45pm, there is no problem. But beyond that we can’t ask employees to work because it violates employment rules fixed by the government,” an official said.
To run trains for an extra hour, Metro Railway would need to start another shift and recruit 175 more employees. The estimated additional daily expenditure would be Rs 2.5 lakh, the official said.
Delhi Metro works in three shifts, which is why it is able to run trains till 11.30 pm and commence services as early as 4.42am.
In Calcutta, buses disappear from the roads post 9pm and taxis demand exorbitant fares, making Metro the lifeline for commuters. Many people who return from work late and don’t travel by a personal or office vehicle are often forced to pay a premium to reach home.
“I work till late on several days of the month and taxis are my only option because the Metro shuts shop early. I had been hoping for an extension of the Metro timings by an hour. An extra 10 minutes won’t help me,” said Amartya Kundu, an intern at Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.
Till the Metro is in service, autorickshaws and taxis are available as link modes of transport. Once the Metro stops, these transport options diminish on most routes.
Sanjib Mukherjee, who works for a private company, often has to wait for nearly an hour to catch a bus from Park Street after stepping out of his office around 10.20pm. “It would have been a blessing if the Metro ran longer,” said Ghosh, from Swinhoe Street.
- Last train currently leaves at: 9.45pm
- From March 25, last train will leave at: 9.55pm
Monday to Saturday, first train
now starts at: 7am
From March 25, first train will
start at: 6.45am
Sunday service to start at:
9.50am instead of 10am
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