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Mumbai Metro hits tracks, and handful of speed bumps

Day 1 of the long-delayed Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar line was marred by delays, breakdowns, erratic ticket machines and other hitches, as Mumbaikars stepped out for a taste of the city’s first Metro

The long-delayed Metro line the city had been waiting for finally saw its first run yesterday, after being inaugurated by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. But the maiden ride was not without its hiccups, leaving passengers much to desire.

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The Metro services were delayed for nearly 20 minutes, leaving passengers irked. Pic/Rane Ashish
The Metro services were delayed for nearly 20 minutes, leaving passengers irked. Pic/Rane Ashish
 
The Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar line, the first of the three Metro corridors planned for the city, was inaugurated at 10.40 am on Sunday, in the presence of RInfra chairman Anil Ambani. Commuters, though, had to quickly dial down their enthusiasm for the anticipated experience, when they encountered bumps on the journey.

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Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who inaugurated the Metro, is greeted by Anil Ambani and wife Tina at Ghatkopar station. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who inaugurated the Metro, is greeted by Anil Ambani and wife Tina at Ghatkopar station. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

Around 1.45 pm, passengers who boarded a Ghatkopar-bound train at Versova Metro station had to be evacuated at Azad Nagar, after the train came upon a technical glitch. Similarly, a service that reached Ghatkopar around 2.10 pm had to be consigned back to the car depot due to a functional problem.

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Mumbaikars did not seem to mind the long queues to get to their ride, at Ghatkopar station
Mumbaikars did not seem to mind the long queues to get to their ride, at Ghatkopar station

After 4 pm, Versova station saw a throng of Mumbaikars streaming in eagerly to catch a joyride on the new rail, and long queues formed in no time at the terminal. As such, the authorities decided to cut short the journey of incoming trains up to D N Nagar station, so as to disperse the crowds. When the swarm thinned a bit, services ran back to back between Versova and Ghatkopar without much hindrance.

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An official collects tokens in a plastic packet at Ghatkopar station, to hasten the exit of people, who would otherwise have to file out in a single row after dropping their tokens into receptacles to open the exit barriers. Pics/Emmanual Karbhari
An official collects tokens in a plastic packet at Ghatkopar station, to hasten the exit of people, who would otherwise have to file out in a single row after dropping their tokens into receptacles to open the exit barriers. Pics/Emmanual Karbhari

All this unplanned activity brought the pace of services down. In fact, some end-to-end journeys — on the 11.04-km stretch right from Versova all the way to Ghatkopar — took as much as 90 minutes.

A young commuter holds up her token before boarding at Versova station
A young commuter holds up her token before boarding at Versova station

Piling on the slowdown, ticket vending machines at some stations refused to accept smart cards, disallowing their owners access to the rail. MMOPL’s operations representatives present at the spot also found it difficult to resolve this issue.

A multitude of these unforeseen issues only contributed to the delay, even as fresh crowds kept pouring in. To manage the masses, the operations team decided to keep the exits open, since making commuters file out in a single row — after dropping their tokens in the receptacle one at a time — would have caused a jam on the premises.

In pictures: Mumbai Metro begins services

An official was appointed to collect these tokens from the crowds, and one could see him scrambling to get all the commuters to drop their tokens in the plastic bag he was carrying. Obviously, he missed many commuters, who took the tokens home with them.

In another minor encumbrance, the Metro station ticket vending machines (TVMs) did not accept the new small Re 1 coin, reminiscent of the Monorail machines. This, however, didn’t cause much bother because the minimum fare is Rs 10.

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At some stations, though, passengers were unable to generate six tickets at one time, even though the machines are supposedly capable of this. From 1 pm to 2.30 pm, they worked fine, but later, one of the machines at Versova station developed a problem, and it was ejecting only one ticket. MMOPL employees were present to help the public out with procuring tickets.

Outdated security
The Maharashtra State Security Corporation (MSSC) guards, who have been posted at Metro stations, are using .410 musket rifles, which the Monorail security personnel are using. This is the same outdated weapon, which according to the MSSC, is useless for quick response and in case of emergency. These are incidentally the same rifles that were used in the Revolt of 1857.

1.75 lakh: The number of passengers who boarded the metro trains till 9 pm

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