Chennai: Received wisdom tells us it there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But at least there could be such a thing as a free metro ride. This happened on Saturday morning in Chennai when the Automatic Fare Collection gates stopped working at metro stations and CMRL tried to issue paper tickets. That stopped soon enough as it was more convenient to handle the crowd by opening the AFC gates and allow the commuters to ride free.
The opportunity, however, came with a rider imposed by Nature. The day began on such a monsoonish note with no let-up in the early morning rain that people may have thought twice before stepping out of home. Those who work six days a week had no option but to brave the water-splashing conditions as traffic crawled along wet roads. The commuters on the metro were not in any greater numbers although the ride was free.
As word spread of free rides, people may have thought of taking advantage of a ‘machine’ sent opportunity. Even the Sun seemed to encourage them as it came out in all its splendour just before noon. The irony of life may have soon been made apparent to the intending free metro riders as the glitch was soon set right and the gates would allow people in only if they had the token or the smart card.
The gates were switched back on again and commuters could not travel if they didn’t have a ticket to ride. They could only be wished ‘better luck next time’ when the metro allows free rides. The Metro was in fact offering free rides at the very start of operations along the airport-Central Station line along Anna Salai last year. That was for a few days before the need to start counting the revenues kicked in.
A smart CMRL issued a note saying, “Due to automatic fare collection system malfunction from 8 am to 10.30 am passengers were allowed to utilise the metro train services without Tokens....