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Extra Metro hits poll wall

Metro commuters will be denied the promised extra trains at night and in the morning till the Lok Sabha polls as the Election Commission has turned down a proposal to extend the duration of the service from March 25.

The Railway Board had forwarded the proposal of an extended Metro rail service to the Election Commission as the model code of conduct has been in force since March 5. But, sources said, the commission has turned down the proposal.

“An increase in the duration of the service would mean that a facility is being provided to citizens. With the elections only a few weeks away, a particular political party could be perceived to be benefiting from the decision. This is against the model code of conduct and that is why we have turned down the proposal,” said an official of the election commission.

Junior railway minister Adhir Chowdhury had on March 4 announced at a programme at Esplanade station that the last trains from New Garia and Dum Dum would start at 9.55pm, instead of 9.45pm. The trains would reach their destinations at 10.45pm, instead of 10.35pm.

Chowdhury also announced that the morning schedule from Monday to Saturday would be extended by 15 minutes. The first train would start at 6.45am, instead of 7am. Sunday’s 10am start was to be advanced to 9.50am.

The new schedule was to be implemented from March 25.

Many Metro commuters who had planned their day keeping in mind the extended schedule were in for a shock when they arrived at stations.

Pankaj Ruia, who reached Esplanade Metro station at 10pm after wrapping up shopping at New Market, was shocked to learn that the last south-bound train had left.

“I had planned to take the last train (one that was to leave Dum Dum at 9.55pm) to Tollygunge. But when I reached the Metro station, tickets were not being issued for stations south of Esplanade,” recounted Ruia, who had to take a taxi to reach home.

The ticket counters at Metro stations are closed 10 minutes before the last train arrives.

“I didn’t know that the Metro’s extended service has not yet started because there was no announcement. The Metro authorities have inconvenienced many people,” said Anjana Mitra, a resident of Behala.

It has been a longstanding demand of Calcuttans to extend the Metro service till 11pm. In Delhi, the Metro runs till midnight on some routes and starts as early as 5am on some others.

Chowdhury’s promise of keeping the Metro awake till 11pm was discussed at several meetings between officials of Metro Railway and the Railway Board. The consensus at these meetings was that it was impossible to run the Metro for an extra hour at night with the existing manpower.