When motorman Subrata Seth steered the maiden rake out of Dakshineswar station at 7am on Tuesday, the oldest Metro route in India managed to change the commute experience of thousands. The route extension has linked Kolkata with districts — even those across the river — without the Metro line actually crossing the river Hooghly.
“When East-West Metro’s Sector V-Salt Lake stadium stretch was unveiled a year ago, it was like a joy ride for Salt Lake residents. The Dakshineswar Metro extension has more immediate significance,” admitted a senior Metro Railway engineer, who helmed the East-West Metro project.
The extension has provided a new lifeline to commuters from Hooghly, Dunlop, Bonhooghly, Belghoria and other areas of the northern suburbs, who can now travel to the southern parts of the city in an hour.
By the end of the first day, the rider count on the new stretch stood at 8,800. Some are disappointed that only 158 services are Dakshineswar-bound as of now. Metro Railway general manager Manoj Joshi had told TOI earlier: “We shall study the footfall and accordingly increase the number of trains.”
Even as Dum Dum has 86 more Kavi Subhas-bound trains, there was a mad rush on Tuesday as trains came filled up from Dakshineswar and Baranagar stations. “All this time, we only had Noapara to contend with but I always managed to find a seat. Today, I was struggling to get into the train at 10am,” Arati Sengupta, a teacher, said.
In Dakshineswar, locals like Sandip Ghosh, who along with wife Ruma and daughter Swastika, queued up from 6am to register as the first ticket buyers (there are only smart cards now).
Beyond the euphoria nurtured by this family from Maharaja Nanda Kumar Road, a bigger opportunity has hit office-goers like Samik Basu.
The Narendrapur RKM staff member and Chinsurah resident said: “Till Friday, I would wake up at 5am, take the 6am local train to Howrah station, board an AC15 bus from there to Garia and ride an auto to reach my workplace at 9.30am.” From Tuesday, his three-and-a-half hour ordeal has been slashed to a 75-minute comfort ride. From now on, it will take him 62 minutes to cover Dakshineswar and Kavi Subhas Metro stations. Basu has to spend another 13 on a suburban train to Bally and take an auto to the Metro station.
In fact, the empty CSTC S9 route (Dunlop-Jadavpur) was ample proof that the commuting behaviour of people from Howrah, Hooghly and the city’s northern outskirts was changing.
“These buses would be jam-packed even in Covid times,” said Mainak Chakraborty, station superintendent, Dakshineswar Metro station. “Can’t help feel proud to be a Metro family member. I can see the difference the carrier has made to the lives of these Kolkata-bound passengers for whom commuting was an everyday torture,” he added.