By bappaditya paul
Kolkata’s Metro Railway has not revised its service hours for the past 10 years. The last time Metro’s weekday service hours was extended by 25 minutes was in 2002.
Ever since, from Monday to Saturday, Metro trains from both ends ~ Dum Dum in the north and Kavi Subhash (New Garia) in the south ~ start at 7 in the morning and the last trains depart at 9.45 in the evening. On Sundays, the services start at 2 in the afternoon, but the closing time is same.
This despite the working hours of Kolkatans and those living in suburbs extending till late into the evening.
Several new industries, such as the information technology and information technology-enabled services where the traditional 10-5 work schedule is obsolete, have also come up. Employees need to work in shifts, commencing even at 10 p.m. But curiously the country’s first underground train system ~ the Kolkata Metro ~ which began operations on 24 October 1984 has remained unresponsive to the changing needs of its patrons.
In fact, in its 28-year history, Metro Railway has revised the service hours only on three occasions (see chart). Whereas the Metro route, which was initially only 3.4 km from Esplanade to Bhowanipore; now covers a distance of 25.24 km from Dum Dum to New Garia. For obvious reasons a large number of commuters are demanding the extension of Metro service hours, especially during the evening.
“I travel from Sonarpur to my office on Camac Street and avail the Metro on the Kavi Subhash-Maidan stretch. But on the return leg, I am compelled to give the Metro a miss as by 10.15 p.m., when I make it to the Maidan station, the last south-bound train is already gone. There are many like me and considering our plight, the Metro authorities should extend the services, at least by half-an-hour, in the evening,” said Arindam Sarkar, employed with a multinational logistic firm. Sonali Dasgupta of Gariahat, who works for a publishing house at Esplanade and after office hours in the evening loves spending an hour or so with friends at Park Street, echoed. Metro Railway spokesperson Protyush Ghosh, however, ruled out extending the service hours any time soon.
“The maintenance of Metro tracks and rakes can be done only after the services end at night. Given that most of our rakes are pretty old, they take more time for maintenance and so in the present scenario we cannot extend the service hours,” he said. This even as the Delhi Metro, which too carries out its maintenance work during non-service hours, operates trains from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on all its six routes. The Delhi Metro began operations on 24 December 2002.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This piece first appeared in The Statesman on 17 July 2012.)