A Delhi Metro train broke down in a tunnel this morning during rush hour. Hundreds of passengers were evacuated at the Central Secretariat station in the heart of the capital. Other trains were affected with lengthy delays. Robin Bansal works for NDTV. This is his account.
At 9 am, almost everyone on the crowded metro train was running against a deadline. I was too as I boarded a yellow line metro at Jahangirpuri. My journey takes 40 minutes every morning on that line. Today, it took me over two hours, much of that spent in a jam-packed train that made a 10 to 15 minute stop at every station; it usually stops for about a minute.
Senior citizens, especially, had a tough time as people stretched, jostled, elbowed, irritated that the journey wouldn't end. Beside me, an elderly woman made frantic calls to her son. Mobile connectivity was low and erratic especially in portions of the route where the train was underground.
Her journey was the longest - she was headed to the HUDA City Centre in Gurgaon, the last destination on the yellow line. Anxious and suddenly thirsty, she asked for water, she was not carrying any. Another passenger offered some, after some asking.
Thankfully, the air-conditioner inside the train was working.
The metro had run smoothly till the Vishwa Vidyalaya station where it stopped for 20 minutes - the first sign that something was not right. Initially, we thought it was one of the halts that everyday metro-users sometimes encounter. These are never too long though. After 25 minutes, the pleasant, robotic metro voice announced that we were running late because of a technical problem. No more information.
After that, the train halted for 10 to 15 minutes at every station. By the time we reached the New Delhi station, a journey that had taken me a little over an hour, we had sensed that there was major trouble. A second announcement confirmed that - trains would not run beyond the Central Secretariat metro station. Which is only half-way to Gurgaon.
There was commotion. Panicky passengers made calls to offices to say they would be late. And families to tell them it would be a long haul. To friends, to advise them that they should avoid the metro today.
At the Rajiv Chowk metro station, the nerve-centre of the service, we saw a sea of people waiting. Queues stretched as far back as the stairs at the entrance of the station. There were angry, frustrated, tired faces everywhere - both inside the train and on the platform.
At Central Secretariat station, I asked a metro official what had gone wrong. He said, "There is a technical problem, sir". As much information as the voice had given me 40 minutes ago on the train. No more was forthcoming.
I was fortunate. My journey now took me on the violet line which did not have a "technical problem." So I just hopped on to a train and was on my way to work. But the elderly woman who was going to Gurgaon would not have it as easy. She was still on the yellow line. I hope she reached safe.
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