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Cruise & crawl, a tale of two journeys: Esplanade-Howrah journey in contrast

To enter the Howrah Maidan Metro station, one has to walk past a chaotic GT Road, dotted with stalls on both sides. But once you enter the station, it seems like a different place

Debraj Mitra | Published 16.03.24, 05:48 AM
Passengers on an Esplanade-Howrah Maidan Metro train take pictures of the underwater tunnel on Friday.

Passengers on an Esplanade-Howrah Maidan Metro train take pictures of the underwater tunnel on Friday.

Pictures by Gautam Bose and Bishwarup Dutta
    • Eleven minutes, from Howrah Maidan to Esplanade. Fare: Rs 10
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    • Forty-five minutes, from Howrah Maidan to Esplanade. Fare: Rs 15

    Metro travelled between Howrah Maidan and Esplanade twice on Friday. The first was a Metro ride on the new stretch of East-West Metro. The second was a bus ride between Howrah Maidan and Mayo Road in Esplanade.

    The difference between the two trips was much more than just 34 minutes.

    Metro

    To enter the Howrah Maidan Metro station, one has to walk past a chaotic GT Road, dotted with stalls on both sides. But once you enter the station, it seems like a different place.

    An escalator led to the platform from the concourse. The ticket counters were buzzing.

    As the train arrived on Platform II, the doors opened in sync with the platform screen doors. The train left for Esplanade at 10.26am.

    By that time, the majority of the seats in the coach were taken. Inside, it was cool and comfortable. And almost everyone was recording on their phones their first train ride under the Hooghly.

    Unlike the north-south line, here no boards were screaming “Photography prohibited”.

    The first stop came after two minutes and a few seconds, at Howrah, a dual-discharge station, meaning the doors opened on both sides for passengers.

    The train stopped at Howrah for around 30 seconds. As the train left Howrah, it was crowded. Many passengers were standing.

    Passengers board a Metro train at the Howrah Maidan station on Friday morning.

    Passengers board a Metro train at the Howrah Maidan station on Friday morning.

    Then came the river. The blue lights were aglow.

    One voice rose above the murmurs of initial excitement. “Nadi eshe gechhe (the river is here),” someone screamed and many more followed. More phones came out.

    The Mahakaran station arrived two-and-a-half minutes after the train had left Howrah. Many people got off at the station meant to serve commuters headed to Dalhousie, the traditional office para of Calcutta. Many people also boarded the train.

    The ride from Mahakaran to Esplanade took a few seconds less than two minutes.

    It was 10.35am when this correspondent got off the train at Esplanade. It took another two minutes to take elevators through the platform and the concourse and take the exit to Rani Rashmoni Road.

    Bus

    Around 11.50am, several buses were lined up on GT Road, outside the Howrah Maidan Metro station.

    They were moving at a snail’s pace to pick up passengers, typical of buses in
    and around Calcutta, on the approach road towards Bankim Setu.

    Metro boarded a bus, which plies between Howrah Maidan and Park Street, at 11.55am.

    More than half the seats were empty. The conductor kept calling passengers yelling the names of the popular stops — “Borobajar, Tea Board, Dalhousie, Dharamtalla, Park Street’’.

    “This bus is popular with office-goers and people headed to the heart of Calcutta for work. Usually, there are hardly any empty seats from Howrah Maidan, especially between 9am and noon,” the driver, Md Mustafa, said.

    He linked the vacant seats to the start of the Metro services.

    The bus crawled through the approach road to a bridge before picking up speed. But the acceleration was brief. The bus took seven minutes to cross Bankim Setu. In other words, it took some 10 minutes to cover around 1.5km from Howrah Maidan to the Howrah bridge.

    The next 3km between the Howrah bridge and Esplanade took 35 minutes.

    The congestion started from the approach road towards the Howrah bridge, much of it because buses slowed to pick up people. Constant honking by buses and taxis made for a sensory assault. Every now and then, a civic volunteer or a traffic policeman hit the bus with a stick, a prod to continue moving.

    By the time the bus was on Brabourne Road, the seats were mostly taken. But the condition of traffic worsened. Thrown into the mix were vans that ferry loads and pedestrians who made a mockery of traffic rules.

    Inside, it was hot and sweaty. AccuWeather showed a Celsius reading of 34 degrees. The RealFeel was 41.

    The bus again picked up a semblance of speed as it crossed Mahakaran and moved past Raj Bhavan. When it reached Mayo Road, it was 12.40pm.

    Last updated on 16.03.24, 05:49 AM
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