Million Delhiites throng Metro on day one

METRO RUSH: The scene at the Tis Hazari station on Christmas Day. — Photo: Shanker Chakravarty  

NEW DELHI DEC. 25. On its first day of operation for the general public, the Delhi Metro today developed teething trouble, but it still brought tremendous cheer to the Delhiites who thronged all the six stations on the 8.3-km Shahdara-Tis Hazari corridor in huge numbers. An estimated one million — 10 lakhs — of them turned up, forcing the authorities to physically restrict entry at times.

The rush took its toll on the system and around 3 p.m., two sets of trains were withdrawn and taken to the yard. They were inspected by the Research Development and Standard Organisation which had conducted safety tests on the Metro rolling stock.

The Director (Operations) of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation said some people had meddled with the emergency buttons in the coaches forcing the drivers to stop, and causing delays and problems in the operation of automatic doors. Asserting that the entry of people into stations was and would be regulated to manageable limits, he appealed to the sightseers to come only during the non-peak hours.

The crowd forced the Delhi Chief Secretary, Shailaja Chandra, and the DMRC Managing Director, E. Sreedharan, to make an on-the-spot assessment in north-east Delhi, where since the service commenced from Shahdara at 6.21 a.m., the Metro staff had their hands full with commuters, most of whom had come with family and friends just for a feel of the ultramodern system.

The Korean project manager of the Rotem consortium, Hyung Wook Kim, who was present during the first run, was pleasantly surprised to see the train full of people even before the break of dawn on a cold December morning. A small puja preceded the first run.

As the day progressed, the crowds swelled. By mid-day, nearly 60,000 tickets had been sold. The Metro later overshot its capacity of 2 lakh commuters per day on the route.

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation spokesperson, Anuj Dayal, said entry into the stations had to be temporarily restricted to cope with the crowds.

But there was no excuse why most of the Metro systems failed despite days of trial. Many of those who went to the Welcome station to catch the first train were disappointed, as only one ticket counter was operational. The staff also had difficulty issuing blue tokens for single journey travel due to a systems error. And those who got the tokens were disappointed when the ticket machines refused to accept them. "Half my family has got in, while the rest of us are stuck since the machine is refusing to accept these tokens,'' said an agitated S. K. Reza of Yamuna Vihar.

The "heavy duty escalators'' at the stations also developed faults due to the large number of people using them. The one at Tis Hazari stopped on the way down just as people were using it for exit. Though no one fell down, it caused concern.