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regular-article-logo Monday, 15 July 2024

Metro brings forward last train to 10.40pm, cites low passenger count for 11pm service

In almost a month that the 11pm trains have been in operation, many passengers pointed to what they called 'deterrence' in availing of the last trains

Debraj Mitra Calcutta Published 20.06.24, 06:43 AM
A Metro train

A Metro train File image

Metro Railway has cited low passenger count to shut down earlier than what it has been doing.

Starting Monday, June 24, the last trains will leave Dum Dum and Kavi Subhas (New Garia) at 10.40pm, instead of 11pm, the carrier said on Wednesday.

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But in almost a month that the 11pm trains have been in operation, many passengers pointed to what they called “deterrence” in availing of the last trains. More than one passenger has told this newspaper that their experience suggested that Metro authorities were not keen on running the 11pm trains.

The 11pm trains have been running since May 24.

The carrier said on Wednesday: “On an average, only 300 passengers are travelling in each train.... Now, Metro Railway authorities have decided to advance the timing of these experimental night services by 20 minutes from 24.06.2024 (Monday). These experimental night services on Blue Line will start from Kavi Subhash (New Garia) and Dum Dum at 10.40pm. These services will be available from Monday to Friday and will stop at all stations en-route.”

Passenger accounts suggest a different story.

  • At 10.40pm on May 24, the digital clock at Park Street station displayed: “Service not available”. A Garia resident was confused as she had seen on TV hours before that the carrier would be running 11pm trains. “It was only after I entered the station and asked an RPF constable that I was sure that the train would come,” said the passenger.
  • A Shyambazar resident spent 15 minutes from around 11pm scouting for one open Metro gate at Esplanade on May 24. He could not find one. He had taken an Uber, and from the cab he saw the open Metro gate — near Lenin’s statue. “The gates that are usually busy throughout the day, like those near New Market and the Oberoi Grand arcade, were all shut,” he said.
  • Another passenger, headed to Tollygunge, found a gate of Chandni Chowk station — opposite Hindusthan building on Central Avenue — open after passing by at least three more gates that were shut. That was around 10.55pm. A Metro employee at the station is said to have told the passenger that there was an “order” to keep only one gate open at each station. “If the passenger count goes up, we will open more gates,” he told the passenger.
  • A Gariahat resident took a New Garia-bound Metro from Esplanade around 10pm on June 17. While leaving Kalighat around 20 minutes later, he saw a couple of passengers trying to rush into the station minutes after the train had left. An RPF constable allegedly ticked them off. “The last train has gone. The station will be closed now,” he is said to have told the two.

A senior Metro official said: “You cannot expect rush-hour facilities for the 11pm trains. The trains have been running for a month now. By now, passengers should be familiar with the gate that is kept open. We are not running the 11pm trains for profit. But you cannot ignore the cost factor as well. I don’t think it is right to give a subsidy on air-conditioned travel.”

The Metro spokesperson said the carrier was having to incur “huge expenses” to run the 11pm trains.

“We are spending around Rs 2.7 lakh as running cost, along with Rs 50,000 as other expenses, each day for running the two 11pm trains. In return, the daily earnings from the two trains have been very dismal, only around Rs 6,000,” he said.

Before May 24, the last trains would leave Dum Dum and Kavi Subhas at 9.40pm.

The Dakshineswar-Dum Dum section was not affected then and will remain unaffected now. The departure time of the last train from Dakshineswar is unchanged at 9.28pm.

One counter remains open at each station to issue tokens for the 11pm trains. Now, the carrier will not issue tokens from counters for the 10.40pm trains. Passengers, who don’t have smart cards, have to buy tokens from the vending machines through UPI payment, the carrier said.

“Cash can be used to get a token, recharge a smart card or buy a new smart card, but the passengers are requested to tender the exact amount as the machines will most likely be unmanned,” said the Metro spokesperson.

The move to run the 11pm trains came within weeks of Calcutta High Court asking Metro Railway to “consider” a petition that sought a direction to the carrier to extend the timings of the last trains on the north-south corridor.

Officials of Metro Railway, however, insisted the decision to run an extra pair of trains was not in response to the high court’s direction.

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