KOLKATA: Sunday’s special 10am-7pm NEET run served as the perfect soft launch and a successful dress rehearsal for the Kolkata Metro ahead of the resumption of its commercial services on Monday.
The country’s oldest rapid transit system will be back on track at 8am on Monday after a 174-day hiatus.
Even as just 1,648 people took the ride on Sunday, NEET examinees and their guardians were all praise for the carrier for ferrying them to their examination centres across the city. Till 4pm, 677 candidates and their guardians used the service, and the day’s earnings for Metro Railway was Rs 68,660. Very few took the East-West line, which is currently in its truncated avatar.
Sinthee resident Manashi Maita said she rarely used the Metro in normal times, but it was an absolute life-saver on Sunday. “We reached Dum Dum station at 9.10am and took the first train to Narendrapur, where my son, Srijon, had his exam centre,” she said.
In all, 74 trains plied on the north-south link and 50 in East-West Metro, at 15- and 20-minute intervals respectively.
Only NEET aspirants and one accompanying person were allowed in stations and on trains on Sunday.
Paper tickets were issued to those who did not have smart cards. Everyone went through thermal screening inside the station. They had to sanitize their hands at sanitizer-dispensing units upon entering the premises. “We got the opportunity of checking whether all the new normal measures were in place,” said a Metro official.
Inside the station, sections have been marked with tape in order to ensure social distancing. On trains, stickers with “cross” signs have been pasted on alternate seats.
Only NEET aspirants were allowed to walk in upon showing admit cards on Sunday. At Mahanayak Uttam Kumar, a man pleaded with the waiting Kolkata Police sub-inspector to be allowed into the station to recharge his smart card; he was flatly refused. From Monday, the same city police personnel will be checking e-passes before letting a commuter in. The boarding pass, a unique feature of the new SOPs for Metro Railway, were available after clicking the URL https://pathadisha.com/metro from 8.20pm on Sunday, exactly 12 hours before Monday’s first train. The passes will not be needed for the other line, East-West Metro, inaugurated in February, since its 5km from Sector V to Salt Lake stadium is an elevated stretch and very few people use it.
More than 6,000 passengers booked e-passes in the first hour on Sunday. The windows were opened at 8.20pm instead of 7.59pm because of the server load. Many people couldn’t generate e-passes. Finally, three servers were deployed and downloading became possible.
“The social distancing and other Covid-19 protocols that are being stringently implemented in the Metro was extremely reassuring. I think I will use the Metro again,” said Sonarpur resident and NEET candidate for Behala’s SS Public School, Kushal Dewanjee. He boarded the train from Kavi Subhas to Mahanayak Uttam Kumar.
From Monday, only smart cards, and no token, will be issued. Six stations — Esplanade, Park Street, Rabindra Sadan, Kalighat, Rabindra Sarobar and Tollygunge — will have smart card-vending machines. Later, all stations will have the facility, to avoid physical contact during transactions. The first and last trains will leave the terminal stations at 8am and 7pm. Travel time will also increase in the new normal, as trains will stop at each station for 30 seconds instead of 20.
In all, 110 trains will be operated on the north-south line and 74 on the East-West line every day, except on Sundays. Under Unlock 4.0, Metro started operating from September 7 in other parts of the country in a graded manner.