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East West Metro

Sealdah Metro off to a promising start

More and more commuters are boarding the Metro now that it has extended its run from Sector V

Showli Chakraborty | Published 22.07.22, 12:50 PM
Passengers queue up to enter Sector V Metro station.

Passengers queue up to enter Sector V Metro station.

Gautam Bose

And finally, the East-West Metro is chugging in from Sealdah. The trains that people were so long taking as joy rides have suddenly become an important mode of commuting.

When the service stretched from Sector V to Phoolbagan, daily footfall on the trains would be around 3,000 but now the passenger count is on the rise day by day. The first day, on July 14, it recorded 31,037 passengers. Tuesday's footfall was 36,044. The Metro has become the transport of choice for many a passenger and the change in their commuting pattern is having a ripple effect on several related professions.

Smooth ride

The Metro now runs from Sealdah to the Wipro crossing in Sector V via Phoolbagan, Salt Lake stadium, Bengal Chemical, City Centre, Central Park and Karunamoyee. The route shall eventually go under the Hooghly to connect Howrah Maidan, with Esplanade being the inter-change station with the older north-south Metro.

The busiest stations now are Sealdah, Karunamoyee and Sector V and on Saturday evening, when The Telegraph Salt Lake took a ride, passengers had to wait a while before finding seats. During rush hours, the frequency of the trains is 15 minutes and otherwise, it is 20 minutes. The minimum fare is Rs 5 while the maximum is Rs 20.

Swanky station

Those having taken the Metro between Sector V and the stadium before are familiar with the state-of-the-art facilities it offers and the Sealdah station is no different.

There are lifts that take you from the ticket counter area to the platforms and the platform doors open only when the trains stop. The lifts can be used by senior citizens, the differently-abled and those feeling unwell. There are also several Metro card recharge machines where one can top up their cards on their own. One can also download the Kolkata Metro app and recharge their monthly passes online.

Office-goers exit the Sector V Metro station on Wednesday.

Office-goers exit the Sector V Metro station on Wednesday.

Debasmita Bhattacharjee

The East-West Metro card is white and green but for single rides, the plastic tokens remain in use. Those with north-south Metro cards can avail of the services here too.

There are murals at the stations depicting the Kolkata skyline or Kumartuli as themes. They are drawing their share of selfie-seekers.

“My friends and I have come from Bally to experience this new train,” said Satyajit Banerjee, a senior citizen. “We also took a ride along the Dakshineshwar route of the Metro when it was inaugurated. This route will be a great advantage for people like us who come to Salt Lake from the suburbs. When we were younger there was little communication to reach Salt Lake but this will ease life,” said the man who soon got busy posing for selfies with the murals as backdrop at the Sealdah station.

The north-south bound underground stations had no toilets but the new ones have toilets for men, women and the differently-abled. The toilets, however, looked a tad dirty on Saturday what with stains on the seats and the floors. The wash basins too could do with more frequent cleaning.

A policeman directs a commuter to last-mile connectivity options.

A policeman directs a commuter to last-mile connectivity options.

Debasmita Bhattacharjee

“The cleaners and other service staff work in shifts from 6am-3pm and 1pm-10pm. During the peak hours, the toilets become dirty and some people have been walking into the station only to use the toilets. We need more staff to man such a huge area,” said Shakti Dutta, a janitor at Sealdah Metro.

Fast and comfortable

For office-goers from North and South 24-Parganas, the Metro corridor is god-sent.Sudipto Roy, who commutes from Sonarpur to Infinity building, has been saving half an hour on his travel time. “Previously, I used to get off the local train at Sealdah and board a bus to Sector V. It used to take me two hours but by taking the Metro from Sealdah, I’m reaching half an hour faster,” he said.

Commuters get off a train on Saturday.

Commuters get off a train on Saturday.

Showli Chakraborty

Aditya Gole travels from Belgharia to his office at the electricity board office in Karunamoyee. “The commuting time for those of us who availed autos from Ultadanga to Karunamoyee hasn’t reduced much, but the comfort of using the Metro is incomparable. The Metro is easier, safer and removes the uncertainty of having to rely on autos. This is a game changer for office goers,” he smiled.

On Wednesday morning, two students of Techno India University seemed pleased as punch to be getting off the Sector V Metro. “I live in Barackpore and my friend in Naihati, and both of us are finding the Metro very convenient. We take local trains, get off at Sealdah and hop on to the Metro. The Sector V station is within walking distance from our college,” said the student who has got herself a new Metro smart card. “We are saving both time and money. Previously we would have to wait indefinitely at bus or auto stands and the auto drivers would extort us.”

The party crowd is cheering too.  “On Friday or Saturday nights, my friends and I hang out at pubs around College More or Webel More in Sector V but a one-way taxi ride there from Kankurgachhi, Phoolbagan or even Bengal Chemical is no less than Rs 300 these days. On the Metro, it would be Rs 20 per person,” said Rishita Bose, who was riding the train from Phoolbagan to Sector V last weekend with her friends.

Commuters enjoy the view outside as the train speeds towards Sector V.

Commuters enjoy the view outside as the train speeds towards Sector V.

Gautam Bose

Commuter complaints

Some residents of New Town want better connectivity. “All the buses travelling from New Town to the EM Bypass or Karunamoyee take a turn to the left after crossing the Mahisbathan bridge before the Technopolis building. It becomes a 15-20 minute detour along the ring road through Sector V,” said Gautam Mitra, a resident of Millennium Tower, the first housing complex to the right on the Major Arterial Road next to the old NKDA office while entering New Town from Salt Lake.

The buses, he says, are not allowed to take the turn at the RS Software  crossing also and only the Karunamoyee-bound routes, like K1 and AC 24, proceed to the Wipro crossing to come back on the Salt Lake Bypass. The EM Bypass-bound ones go further away to take the road next to Nicco Park. This detour, Mitra claims, negates the time that a trip to Sealdah by Metro would save compared to a bus ride. “An autorickshaw charges Rs 15 and would take five to six minutes to reach the Sector V station from the New Town bus stand but seats are hard to get as the drivers prefer Karunamoyee-bound commuters who would travel a longer distance. We need at least one bus to go straight and not get into Sector V,” he said.

Auto business down

Not everyone is happy with the Metro. “Our business is down by almost 30 per cent ever since the Sealdah Metro opened,” grimaces Kallol Ghosh, an auto driver plying from Sector V to Karunamoyee and Ultadanga. “The office crowd relying on autos has dwindled rapidly since last week and now we are having to look for passengers to residential areas in Salt Lake rather than office areas.”

The view outside the Sealdah Metro station on Thursday.

The view outside the Sealdah Metro station on Thursday.

Gautam Bose

Other auto routes from Sealdah to Beleghata and Beleghata to Phoolbagan have been affected too. Most people travelling along the Bypass from the direction of Chingrihata towards Sector V are now availing the Metro from Bengal Chemical or the stadium. “Commuters are reluctant to spend time on the road when the Metro is close by. Earlier, there used to be long queues for autos during rush hours but now the crowd has thinned. With fuel prices skyrocketing and business going down, life is becoming difficult for us,” says Babushona Haldar, an auto driver on the Beleghata-Karunamoyee route.

Chaos coming under control

The busiest stations in Salt Lake are Sector V, due to the IT crowd, Karunamoyee, due to the government office employees, and City Centre later in the day, thanks to shoppers.

In the initial days, the scene outside these stations was chaotic. On Saturday evening, a crowd of 40 to 50 people had spilled on to the road from the Sector V station in search of last- mile connectivity. And without a clue about where to search for stands, commuters were having to flag down buses and autos on the move.

But by Wednesday, the situation had come under control. “There are three of us stationed here today to guide Metro passengers to the direction they need to go to. Whether to Sector V, New Town or elsewhere, there are auto stands and bus stops a stone’s throw away — at the Wipro crossing. People have to walk barely a minute but despite that some are complaining,” said one of the traffic guards. 

Since the trains are rolling in every 15 to 20 minutes, the crowd outside is dispersing by the time the next train arrives. “But commuters are spilling on to the road while walking to the auto stands. I’ve heard that the authorities are planning to cordon off the footpath from the Metro to the auto stands to prevent this,” said the traffic guard.

Another anxious group is residents of CL Block, where the Sector V Metro opens up opposite Sector V. “We have been anticipating crowds here and about a month back, we met the police to seek assurance that no auto or rickshaw stand would be allowed in our block,” says Justice (retd) Soumitra Sen, a resident of CL Block.

“The CL Block lane at the mouth of the Metro station is a narrow one and we will be subject to tremendous chaos and commotion if autos are allowed here. Congestion has visibly increased after the opening of the Sealdah station but luckily, most of the crowd is disembarking on the Sector V side but who knows what will happen if the crowd keeps increasing? We are planning to meet the police again for an assurance that the peace and tranquility of our neighbourhood will not be disturbed,” says Sen.

Additional reporting by Brinda Sarkar & Debasmita Bhattacharya

Last updated on 22.07.22, 12:57 PM
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