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Age glare in escalator accident

Metro commuter hurt as direction reverses at Dum Dum station

The escalator at Dum Dum station that suddenly changed direction from up to down on Tuesday morning. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

Dum Dum: An age-weary escalator going up to the platform at Dum Dum Metro station stopped abruptly and reversed direction on Tuesday morning, throwing off several commuters and leaving one of them with injuries to both knees.

The escalator next to the stationmaster's cabin malfunctioned around 10.45am, stopping for a few seconds before moving in the opposite direction. Around 15 people were on the escalator, which at more than two decades old is allegedly well past its lifespan.

Tuhin Bhattacharjee, 24, fell and bruised both his knees in the freak accident. He was given first aid at the station and did not require a hospital visit. The other commuters who lost balance when the escalator reversed its movement were lucky to escape harm.

"There was a sudden screech and the escalator halted. The next moment, it started going down. Before I could grab the handrail, I slipped and rolled down a few stairs before hitting the ground. My knees hit the edges of the plates," said Tuhin, who works for a transport company in Posta.

The resident of Jagaddal, in North 24-Parganas, takes the Metro till Girish Park station every day. He left for home after resting at the station for about an hour after the accident.

A three-member inquiry committee was set up by the general manager of Metro Railway to probe the escalator malfunction that potentially endangered several commuters.

Tuhin Bhattacharjee (in shorts) who fell and bruised both his knees 

A senior official said an inspection of the escalator suggested a problem in the welding at the base of the escalator. "There is a crack at the base that is nearly six inches wide."

The escalator had been closed for repairs for more than a month last year before being certified fit for use from December.

The manner of the accident on Tuesday was almost a rerun of June 6, 2017, when an escalator moving up at Kavi Subhash (New Garia) station reversed direction. On that occasion, at least five persons were injured.

Metro Railway has 78 escalators of different makes across its 24 stations. The list of manufacturers includes Thyssenkrupp, Otis Elevator Company, Johnson Lifts Pvt Ltd, Kone Elevator India Pvt Ltd and the Schindler Group. Thyssenkrupp has the maintenance contract for more than 50 of these elevators while Johnson and Schindler are responsible for keeping the rest in shape.

Around 30 of the escalators are more than two decades old and need to be replaced, an official said. Some of these have been in use since the Metro service started in Calcutta.

The older escalators require an overhaul every six months while the rest have a one-year window. "Four escalators at Dum Dum station, including the one involved in the accident, will be replaced soon. Eleven more escalators will be replaced at Rabindra Sadan, Rabindra Sarobar, Belgachia, Chandni Chowk, Esplanade and Netaji Bhavan stations," Indrani Banerjee, the spokesperson for Metro Railway, said.

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