KOLKATA METRO LEERY OF RUNNING MORE TRAINS
By bappaditya paul
NOTWITHSTANDING THE RUSH of passengers on weekends, Metro Railway is hesitant to increase the number of trains. Metro trains are badly crowded on weekends, which turn the ride into an ordeal for commuters.Until June, the logic was that before increasing the number of trains Metro wanted to weigh the impact of an imminent bus fare hike on its passengers. Now that the bus fare in Kolkata has gone up since 1 September, Metro authorities say that they need to work out whether increasing the number of trains on weekends will be feasible given the shortage of train drivers and rakes.
According to the latest figures, Metro Railway is now carrying an average of 4.83-lakh passengers on Saturdays while running 206 trains. On Sundays, it transports around 2.53 lakh passengers with the number of trains being 94. As against this, the number of people travelling by Metro on weekdays is around 5.72 lakh when the number of trains operated is 274 daily. Going by this, the average number of commuters per Metro train on Saturday is 2,345; on Sunday it is 2,691, and on weekdays it stands at 2,088. A Kolkata Metro train that runs with eight coaches is designed to carry a maximum 2,558 passengers. This makes it clear that an increase in number of Metro trains on weekends is only reasonable, but the authorities are still hesitant.
Metro Railway general manager Mr Radhey Shyam said that several factors needed to be taken into consideration before introducing more trains on weekends. “We need to work out whether it will be feasible to run more trains with the present manpower and infrastructure. Besides, we also need to keep in mind that the overall number of passengers has dropped in the past year,” he said.The fact, however, is that the fall in Metro passengers ~ by about a lakh ~ was the result of a steep hike in Metro fare implemented in November 2013. But this has proved a boon for Metro trains that were failing to meet the burden of nearly 6.5 lakh passengers on a weekday, as there is a shortage of rakes. In fact, Metro’s passenger revenue has gone up.
Mr Shyam ruled out the possibility of extending the run of all Metro trains up to Noapara for want of sufficient passengers. At present, only 50 trains ply up to and from Noapara on weekday, 42 trains on Saturday and 48 trains on Sunday.
(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report was first published in The Statesman on 21 November 2014.)