Metro rail opens to public
Jannatul Afrin's excitement was palpable as the train was approaching the platform at Uttara North Station at 8 in the morning.
"Here comes our train," she said with wide-eyed wonder.
The train stopped at the platform and on cue, its sliding doors and platform edge road opened up for passengers to board.
Jannatul got on the train with her brother Al-Amin, who works on the metro rail project as a mechanical assistant, and dozens of other passengers -- all cheering.
As the train jerked forward for its maiden journey, she held the safety rod tight. "It's so exciting," she said.
In just 13 minutes, they arrived in Agargaon -- which would have been an implausible feat even two days ago.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line-6 project, fundamentally changing the way many commutes in their day-to-day lives.
"I have toiled here for the last five years, so when I took the ride, I felt all my hard work was a success," said Al-Amin while getting off the train at the Agargaon.
Like Jannatul and Al-Amin, 3,855 others enjoyed the thrill of riding the country's first metro train on its opening day.
But getting on the joyride was not easy.
Braving the winter morning chill, a huge number of people gathered at both the Agargaon and Uttara North Station soon after Fajr prayer -- a good few hours before the first train was scheduled to leave the Uttara North Station.
The queue stretched to nearly a kilometre from the two operational stations. Police and security personnel near the main gate of the stations were busy maintaining order.
Once the station gates opened, people dashed for the concourse.
"I started from my home as early as 6 am thinking that there would be a huge crowd as the day progressed. But as I reached, I found at least 50 people in front of me," said Hafiz Sarker, a resident of Pallabi in Mirpur.
Kamrul Hasan, an official at a private company, took half-day off yesterday and arrived at the North Station from Badda at 5:30 am.
"I wanted to be among the group of people taking the first trip -- I am over the moon," he said.
Niloy, a student of Milestone School in Uttara, left home after Fajr prayers along with his friends to be part of the historic moment. After waiting for over an hour, he and his friends got on the train.
"I can't express in words how I am feeling. We cheered throughout our ride," he said.
Mohammad Mohsin, the founding captain of the Bangladesh Wheelchair Cricket Team, also enjoyed a ride on one of the 50 trips the metro completed yesterday.
"When I saw the inauguration of the metro rail, I could not hold my excitement. I wanted to see where our metro offers the same facilities that we saw abroad. I must say that I have done all things -- from buying tickets to getting up on the platform -- on my own without taking anyone's help."
But it was not smooth sailing at the two modern-looking stations throughout the day.
At one point, there was a queue at the concourse too due to ticketing glitches.
By 10:30 am, five out of six vending machines at Agargaon Station were out of order, leaving passengers to buy tickets manually, which ate up more time.
The authorities provided passes from four manual booths and one vending machine for quite some time.
The two vending machines were eventually fixed.
Similar scenes were seen at the Uttara North Station. Even the money that the passengers inserted in the vending machine got stuck.
Many people were giving Tk 500 and Tk 1,000 notes at vending machines disregarding the instruction, said MAN Siddique, managing director of Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Company.
"That caused disruption."
Besides, many people used old notes that got stuck inside the vending machines, he said, adding that they tried to fix the issue immediately.
The outcome of the disruption was reflected in the passenger count yesterday.
According to the pre-announcement, the authorities were supposed to carry 200 people per train.
In that case, the authorities would have been able to carry 10,000 passengers. But about one-third of that number could make it to the train even though a huge number of passengers were seen outside of both stations.
Siddique said they have taken measures to supply adequate changes from today and will hang instructions on which notes can be read by the vending machines.
Metro rail passengers generally use long-term passes.
Since it was the first day yesterday, people were buying their multiple-use passes as well as their single-use tickets.
"That's what took the time and caused the queue," Siddique said.
Of the passengers, 3,756 used a single-journey pass, 99 used a multiple-use MRT pass and two used the rapid pass for the service, he added.