About 500 passengers had to spend a harrowing 20 minutes in semi-darkness as a technical snag forced the non-AC rake to stop at a tunnel in between two stations in Kolkata on Monday.
A Dum Dum-bound train was just about to enter Park Street station from Maidan station at 11.25 a.m. when it abruptly stopped at the tunnel as the third rail of the rake was unable to draw electricity, PRO of the Metro Rail R.N. Mahapatra told The Hindu. Soon after the authorities were informed about this, electricity was switched off at the third line and authorities rushed to evacuate passengers stuck inside the train after about 20 minutes, he said. Metro services were resumed at 1.20 p.m., although trains were run in at certain stretches on an emergency basis at 12 noon.
While passengers complained of suffocation and breathlessness, Mr. Mahapatra said air is always getting circulated in the tunnels and there was no reason for passengers to be feeling suffocated.
One woman fell unconscious and was brought out of the station by fellow passengers.
“Out of 500 passengers, only one woman fell ill. If there was lack of air circulation, surely many more passengers would have fallen ill. The woman might have fallen ill due to a personal fear or trauma,” Mr. Mahapatra told The Hindu.
Passengers said they were lucky to have been travelling in a non-AC rake as situations could have been far worse and suffocating in an AC rake. Passengers, however, claimed that Metro authorities were slow in evacuating them and no stretchers were used in the process.
Denying inefficiency, Mr. Mahapatra said: “We took only 15-20 minutes to help those who were stuck. Regarding lack of stretchers, we aren’t a hospital. We have about four to five stretchers in every station. Our authorities definitely rushed with the stretchers from Park Street station. Passengers should be commended for cooperating with us. All passengers who were on that train said they were satisfied with the evacuation process and have no complaints regarding the same.”
The TV channel which is aired at TVs at Metro stations has been playing out an awareness program since the past three months to educate passengers on what to do in case of an emergency while travelling, said Mr. Mahapatra.
“The way passengers remained calm today [Monday] shows that the awareness program has had a positive impact on them,” he said.
This is the second such incident in the past two weeks. About 15 days back, another train was stalled following a similar technical glitch, said Mr. Mahapatra.
While questions are being raised on the condition of the rake, Mr. Mahapatra said there was no guarantee that a new rake would not develop a problem.
“Today’s rake was a 25-year-old one. We had acquired a 3-year extension for it. However, this does not mean that an old rake is prone to developing technical glitches. Even the new ones can develop a problem,” he said.
The rake which was stuck two weeks back was also an old one, Mr. Mahapatra said.