Kol: Metro queue returns with tokens making a comeback
Times of India | 26 November 2021
KOLKATA: Tokens were back at the Metro and so are queues with commuters like Arabindo Dey from Sonarpur, Nitish Ghosh from Belgharia and Kumar Haldar from Haltu queueing up at the ticket counters to collect tokens for a ride on Thursday.
“I didn’t want to spend Rs 120 for a smart card when I should have spent Rs 10 or Rs 20 for a token to travel up or down or take a round trip between Kalighat and Esplanade. Two days ago, I read in the papers that tokens will be issued. So here I am, back on the Metro after a year,” smiled Haldar, a technician in a printing press at Taltala.
“During the pandemic, I am on duty thrice a week. On and off, there are holidays. I also take sick or casual leave. The smart card seemed a waste. I took the bus instead,” the 58-year-old explained.
Metro Railway, which reintroduced tokens (available for Rs 5 for the shortest 2km distance) for the first time on Thursday after March 23, 2020, has prepared itself to ensure safety against contagion. It has fed around 3 lakh tokens into the system so that an adequate number of fresh tokens are available to passengers from its 26 North-South stations and the seven along the East-West Metro.
“Around 3.5 lakh people ride the Metro every day. Presuming around 60,000 to 70,000 will buy tokens, we have four times the requirement for ready use,” said an official. Metro also has in place a most scientific system of disinfecting the handheld plastic discs — 40 ultraviolet sanitizer machines that sterilize more than 300 tokens in four minutes. “If fresh tokens are ready for use, the reused ones won’t be needed. More time could be spent on sterilizing the used lot if there are enough sanitized ones available in the cash counters already,” the official added.
Metro has been avoiding tokens all this time. Even as the transport lifeline had resumed services twice during the pandemic — first from September last year after a six-month hiatus and again after a two-month break because of the second wave — only contactless smart cards were allowed for boarding trains. Finally, giving in to the clamour of those who didn’t travel every day and were reluctant to lock money in smart cards (Rs 80 deposited as security), Metro Railway decided to reintroduce tokens.
Weeks before the March 2020 lockdown, the tokens were manually washed with disinfectant and detergents. Exposed to the damp treatment, many smart tokens were damaged. The dry UV machines are perfectly compatible with the chips inside the smart tokens. The sanitization is also foolproof.