The story of Calcutta Metro
ON 27 September 1995, the through services on entire 16.45 km section from Tollygunge to Dum Dum were introduced. It took more than two decades and over Rs. 1600 crores to redeem the pledge which the Indian Railways had undertaken to provide an efficient, fast, safe, comfortable and pollution-free Mass Rapid Transit System to the people of Calcutta.
During three years of operation of its through service, Metro Railway has increased the daily services from 106 in September 1995 to 142 in January 1999 i.e. an increase of 34 per cent. The services were increased to as high as 154 during festive season i.e. September to December 1998. Peak hours frequency, however, continues to be 10 minutes at present.
The number of passengers using Metro has also been going up steadily. From 43.28 million in 1995-96 it rose to 69.12 million in 1997-98. During the year 1998-99 Metro has, however, carried only 58 million commuters. The ridership had continued its upward trend upto June 1998 but with fare revision effective from 20.6.1998, there was a sudden drop in ridership though overall earnings did increase from 19.20 crores in 1997-98 to 23.25 crores in 1998-99. The fare revision after a long gap of six years was inescapable keeping in view the rising costs of all inputs. At present, the cost recovery through fare box colllection is only 35-40 per cent. This, however, does compare favourably with other similar systems in the world.
During the current financial year (1999-2000) Metro fares have remained untouched, though elsewhere on Indian Railway fares have been revised upward. We are hopeful that ridership will go up again considering the quality of Metro services in terms of comfort, safety and speed.
For last few months we have been facing certain technical problems in operation of our day to day services mainly on account of in-service failures of rolling stock. The equipment used on Metro coaches is of late 70/ early 80s vintage. No spares are available due to sheer obsolescence making it very difficult to maintain the stock in good fettle. After concerted efforts we have been able to procure / develop certain critical spares both from indigebous sources and abroad. The supplies are expected to come in shortly which will improve health of rolling stock and hence the overall quality of service. Retrofitment of metro coaches using state-of-the-art technology is also under active consideration of Ministry of Railways as a long term solution.
Improved level of service
Metro Railway has plans ready to increase the frequency of trains during peak hours from 10 minutes to eight minutes and then to six minutes in phases in the next two years. This must improve over ridership further.
Augmentation of AFC system
Entry and Exit to stations is controlled through magnetic gates. The system is being augmented by installing 40 more gates at an approximate cost of Rs. 6.0 crores. This will ensure speedy clearance of commuters specially at exits during peak hours. The upkeep of the existing system is also being further tightened up to ensure smooth functioning.
All the 35 escalators as sanctioned earlier have now become functional. Seven more escalators at an approximate cost of Rs. 4.0 crores are proposed to be installed for convenience of our commuters.
At present trains are working under absolute block system with control panel at block stations. CATC system supplied by M/s. ALSTOM, France at an approximate cost of Rs. 70.0 crores is now in advanced stage of testing and commissioning. The systems does not require track side signals. Trains are permitted to run at a speed depending on clearance available between them. In case motorman exceeds permitted speed, the system applies brakes automatically to ensure safety. The system is designed for four minutes frequency.
Extension to Garia
Further extension from Tollygunge to Garia, a distance of eight Kms has been approved through this year's budget at an approximate cost of Rs. 696 crores. Govt. of West Bengal will share 33 per cent of the project cost. This alignment will follow mostly the centreline of Tolly-nallah upto Pranab Nagar. Except for a short length near Garia, this section will be on elevated structures.
The detailed engineering work including soil investigation, structural designs etc. have already been taken in hand and tenders for execution will be floated shortly. Subject to availablity of adequate funds, the section is targetted for completion in five years. Needless to say that once commissioned, Metro services will benefit entire population along the route.
Dum Dum-Barrackpore section Techno-economic feasibility study for extending Metro Railway upto Barrackpore - a distance of 16 kms - is in progress. The study report will be sent to Ministry of Railways shortly for further consideration.
Electrification of Dum Dum-Tallah section
For the convenience of North bound commuters who avoid travelling by Metro on their return journey to aviod crowded suburban trains at Dum Dum, the work of electrification of Dum dum-Tallah section at an approximate cost of Rs. 4.92 crores has been sanctioned, so as few trains could originate from there. The work is targetted for completion by June 2000.
Metro Railway is thus fully posed to march ahead. With plans in hands to improve the quality of existing services, despite constraints, and expansion of its network, the commuters at large are bound to benefit greatly. Metro Railway is committed to commuters care and maintain the high standard for which it is known to its users.
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