कोलकाता Kolkata (KOAA): In last six months, the Metro has lost about 50,000 passengers. While some of this is due to the fare hike, many have stopped using the city’s underground lifeline for good due to the spate of incidents. July has been particularly bad, admitted Metro officials. There have been at least six snags in July. Also, there have been incidents of water seeping from the ceilings of coaches and glitches.
“All this has been happening due to the apathy of top officials. How can one expect to run trains at five-minute intervals with so few rakes? The conventional rakes are in a very bad shape. Some 13 AC rakes were supposed to replace the non-AC ones between 2009 and 2011. The Metro should have kept the old rakes off track and should have sought more replacements instead of taking up mid-life rehabilitation,” said president of Metro Railwaymen’s Union Dilip Mukherjee.
“Some technicians from Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited are involved in maintenance of AC rakes at the car sheds but there aren’t sufficient pits to handle so many coaches. Ideally, the AC coaches should have been maintained at Sealdah. As maintenance is not proper, services are suffering,” said Mukherjee.
Technical trouble with the rakes is not the only problem that the Metro is facing. There have also been incidents of track fracture.
Mukherjee said the Metro Railway’s decision to do away with the post of keyman has cost it dearly. The keymen checked the tracks. They have now been replaced by trackmen, whose primary job is maintenance.
“Earlier, the trackmen used work after the keymen detected a problem. What maintenance can be done if there is no detection of problems? As a populist measure, the Metro has extended timings of its service in the mornings and evenings, doing away with pilot trains. The pilot trains were crucial in detecting track problems. The Metro tracks were laid decades ago and nobody knows what their actual condition is. To add to their own troubles, the Metro has introduced morning services on Sundays. This has reduced the time available for checking and maintenance,” Mukherjee added.
Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, an IT professional, has vowed never to set foot on a Metro Railway train again. One of those stuck inside the dark tunnel between Park Street and Maidan stations for nearly an hour on June 23, Roy Chowdhury says he will carry the horrid experience to his deathbed.
Rana Sanyal, a trader based in north Kolkata, was also on that train. Now, he leaves home early to catch a bus, however uncomfortable the ride may be. When he has important appointments, he hails a cab.
“I have been a regular Metro commuter for the last 12-13 years, ever since I came to Kolkata from Asansol and joined college. But, I had never experienced anything like what happened on June 23. It was traumatic to say the least. Now, every time I pass by a Metro station, I shudder,” said Roy Chowdhury.
Sanyal says that passengers like him didn’t mind when Metro restructured fares. “We were happy thinking that the services would improve. I believe that had the June 23 incident happened in any other country, the Metro would have had to pay millions in damages. I don’t think that I will ever get to board a Metro train again,” he said.