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Monday, January 07, 2019

The Poor Quality of Railway Stations in Mumbai..

Now for a not so flattering side.. Railway contracts for electrification awarded between 2013-14 and 2015-16 were, on average, delayed by nearly three years, leading to a cost overrun of Rs 638 crore.

Cleanliness and hygiene were not being maintained at catering units at stations and in trains.

After the Elphinstone Road incident, railway authorities finally shifted their focus on improving station infrastructure – building new foot over-bridges, widening existing ones, etc. Until then, station development meant beautifying ticket booking offices, providing water coolers, installing ticket vending machines, providing ATMs, and improving waiting rooms, among other such changes. And these revamps, too, were done only at major stations, while smaller stations would be ignored. After the stampede, the Railways not only began to upgrade infrastructure that would make commuting easier for citizens, but also removed illegal hawkers, stalls and other such obstructions that were hindering the movement of commuters.

Unfortunately, the railway administration has always acted only after outrage over mishaps. The exercise to increase heights of platforms was undertaken after the Monica More incident, in which the 16-year-old lost her hands after she fell in the gap between the train and platform at Ghatkopar station. Similar is the case with makeover of the Elphinstone Road and Parel stations. “Railways has not improved circulating area of any station where passengers facing maximum troubles. It is putting solar lamps and LEDs, beautifying booking windows or providing ATVMs. It is not doing what the passengers want, but only things that will bring revenue or savings,” said Shailesh Goyal, passenger activist.

At several stations, the public toilets are unusable. Also trash generated at stations is thrown at the end of the platforms and burnt there.

In the past few years, railway authorities have begun installing escalators and lifts at railway stations, but activists says these are not properly maintained. “There are instances when the escalators stop midway and commuters have to walk. The elevators are in bad condition and not maintained at most stations. We have been raising the issue with railway authorities, but in vain,” said Subhash Gupta, president, Rail Yatri Parishad.

The Railways have announced plans to develop some of the suburban stations, but they are yet to materialise. There was a plan to develop CSMT and Thane stations as ‘World Class stations’, having budget hotels, commercial complexes, but even after 10 years, nothing concrete has happened.

The Metro stations on the Ghatkopar-Andheri-Versova line could act as a benchmark for the Railways. These stations are clean, have proper signage, controlled access system, ticketing facilities, good passenger addressing system, food and beverage stalls and other commercial stalls along with a lot of circulating area.

Even Cidco has developed stations in Navi Mumbai in the 1990s that are ideal for commuters. The stations are spacious, have ample parking space outside, there are proper entry and exit points and the stations are integrated with other modes of transport – with bus, auto and taxi stands on the station premises.

Passenger activists feel the Railways can learn from the Metro and Cidco authorities to make commute better for Mumbaiites too.

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