Action Stations: Terminus trouble

A stunning exterior cannot hide problems dogging the iconic halt

Mumbai's most iconic station, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal (CST) is the home of the Central Railways in the city. The Main Line and Harbour Line trains commence from here in the southern part of the city. The building has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its spectacular architecture.

The station always sees hordes of commuters on the Main and Harbour Lines. Pics/ Bipin Kokate
The station always sees hordes of commuters on the Main and Harbour Lines. Pics/ Bipin Kokate

Lovely building
Sandhurst Road resident, Rosetta Pereira who commutes to CST for work every day says, “The architecture of CST is really awesome. I am a fan of beautiful buildings. There are days when I am not in a hurry to get to work, when I sit and admire the beauty of a part of the CST structure.

For commuters as well as those visiting the city, CST has always been the railway, go to place
For commuters as well as those visiting the city, CST has always been the railway, go to place

There is a lot of intricate work and detail in every nook and corner of the building, which makes me love this station.” Agreeing with her, Ishwar Verma, an estate agent who works in the Ballad Pier area says, “CST station is the identity of Mumbai. Besides, the Gateway of India, CST is the other structure that defines the city.

It’s far from smooth walking for commuters in the CST subway with many issues faced
It’s far from smooth walking for commuters in the CST subway with many issues faced

The only thing that worries me is the lack of cleanliness. Many commuters spit and litter at the station which makes the surroundings dirty. A number of awareness drives are held, but people still continue to dirty the platforms.” College student Payal Raman who commutes from Vikhroli to CST says, “If only people kept CST station clean and stopped spitting, the platforms would be spick ‘n’ span.

Female commuters have always found it far from easy at this station
Female commuters have always found it far from easy at this station

The dustbins are scarce in comparison to the need and I have seen many overflowing with trash. The building is beautiful, but the steps taken to keep it clean seem to be lacking.”

The metal detectors at CST station are perpetually not working and this makes commuters feel far from safe. Pic/Satyajit Desai
The metal detectors at CST station are perpetually not working and this makes commuters feel far from safe. Pic/Satyajit Desai

Security shackles
CST was one of the places that was attacked in the 26/11 terror attacks in 2008 but the security at the station still has loopholes. Mayur Patil who commutes to the station often for work says, “The metal detectors at the station do not work.

The building is a marvel when it comes to the way it has been made. Pic/Atul Kamble

They are just there for show. The police presence at the station also is not very good. Churchgate station has such good security that every commuter has to pass through metal detectors. At CST, it is very easy to dodge the metal detectors which many people do.”

Mayur Patil Keshav Kotian Rosetta Pereira
Mayur Patil, Keshav Kotian, Rosetta Pereira

College professor Poornima Sharma who commutes from Kalwa to CST says, “The subway that leads out of CST station is unsafe after 10 pm. I teach in a night college and sometimes leave at around 11:30 pm; I prefer crossing the road rather than using the subway.

The station also is very lonely and policemen are often not in the train compartments. I feel unsafe and do not take a train if there is no fellow woman commuter.” Echoing Sharma’s concerns, Waheeda Younis who commutes to Kurla from CST says, “A few days ago I was shoved and groped by a group of men when I was returning home at around 7 pm.

The station is so crowded at that time, that I found it difficult to nab the culprit. I complained to the police and they said they would look into the case. So far, no one has been caught. I take care while I walk now as I keep an umbrella handy to hit any mischief maker.”

Platform problems
With 22 platforms which cater to both suburban as well as outstation trains, CST is the station in Mumbai with the most train and commuter traffic. The suburban trains Main Line and Harbour Line platforms both have a huge gap between train and platform.

Borivali resident Keshav Kotian says, “I retired from my job recently and have to go to CST often for paperwork. The gap between the train and the platform as well as the height on platforms 4, 5 and 6 makes commuting, a huge problem. I had a knee operation recently and so getting in and out of the trains is difficult. This train-platform gap makes me really scared of commuting to CST now.”

Going from one platform to another is yet another vexing issue. Pereira says, “Towards the north side of the station, the connectivity between platforms is poor. If you happen to come from the Crawford market side there is no option but to cross over by passing through trains. The gap between platform and train is uneven on platforms 2, 3 and 4 and is dangerous."

Mangal Rathod, a trader who commutes between Kasara and CST says, “I do not have the patience to wait for a train or to walk the length of the platform. And there are times when I cross the track. It is dangerous but when there is no foot overbridge, there is little option.”

Mixed bag
The subway that leads to the busy Azad Maidan and Fort areas is always crowded with people and hawkers. Younis says, “The steps are broken at certain places and during the monsoon there is leakage at a number of places. After 10 pm and before 6 am, taking the subway is dangerous as it is lonely and many mischief makers frequent the place. It is also unhygienic.”

Patil says, “The subway has many eateries but there are very few dustbins. Throwing away garbage is a huge problem. I have seen many garbage heaps all around the subway and there are many rats and cockroaches feeding off them.” The overbridge that leads to the JJ School of Art side from CST has broken steps at a number of places, says Verma.

The Vashi resident says, “Finding the staircase that leads to this bridge is very tough. The entrance is very round about from the CST side, plus the bridge and steps are in a bad condition. I prefer jumping over the divider and crossing the road rather than using this bridge.”

Raman says, “The washrooms at CST are the cleanest on the Central Line. Maybe the pay and use toilet is the reason for it. I don’t mind paying to have a clean washroom. The food available here is also tasty. The vegetable roll, samosa and bhajiya at the station are mouth watering treats.”

The good and bad
As one of the city’s oldest stations, CST has the potential to be a leading commuter hub, but the current situation needs to be looked into. Huge crowds of commuters and rail traffic stretches the infrastructure. The pay and use toilet at CST is clean and well-maintained, which is a huge relief for commuters on the Central Line.

The security measures at the station need to be stepped up. The booking counters work well and the smart card machines are a huge help. More smart card machines and counters would help commuters get tickets easier. The indicators at all exit-entries are a huge help to commuters who are on a run to and from the station.

Getting taxis and share a taxis from the station is easy with the queue. Most places are at a walking distance from CST, this makes commuting easier from the station. This Central Railway headquarter can be the best station in the city with the Victorian architecture and history that whispers in its crevices. The old and new need to blend to make CST a model station in the city.

This is part of our ongoing series on railway stations seen through the eyes of commuters.

Challenges faced
>> Metal detectors do not work properly and commuters can easily evade them too.
>> Ticket counters are overcrowded and there are few smart card machines.
>> Subway is dirty and crowded with hawkers taking up space.
>> The platform-train gap is too much at a number of places.
>> The north side of the platform doesn’t have a foot overbridge which makes going from one platform to the other problematic for commuters.

The history of CST station
>> The station serves as a terminal for long-distance trains as well and is one of the busiest stations in India. - The building draws inspiration from the Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival style and traditional Mughal buildings. 
>> Was designed by Frederick William Stevens and was earlier known as Victoria Terminus (VT) till its name was changed in 1996 to CST.

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1 Comments

  • kranti21-Apr-2015

    having more working ticket vending machines will on ensure more reveue is generated for the railways...and reduce ticketless travel...

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