Lifts and escalators are being proposed at major stations to facilitate easy movement, and building wider doors for long-distance trains is also being looked into; all trains will also be ‘Braille enabled’
The railways is batting for senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) to ensure that their travel is smooth and easy. The Railway Budget yesterday proposed a host of measures to make long-distance trains more accessible. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announced the provision of lifts and escalators at major stations to facilitate easy movement of the elderly and PWDs.
Rs 120 crore has been provided for this purpose. “All newly manufactured coaches will henceforth be Braille enabled, and Rail Coach Factory has been asked to explore the possibility of building wider entrances for the ease of differently-abled passengers,” said Prabhu.
With the reservation charts etc also being made available in Braille, the Railways will be making a provision for the blind for the first time. The ladders in long-distance trains, which pose a big barrier for senior citizens and PWDs, will be replaced with user-friendly ones. A folding ladder would be made available in coaches for easy climbing.
The Railways has already approached the National Institute of Design for this purpose. As a short-term measure, the Railways has proposed increasing the quota of lower berths for senior citizens. Ticket checkers will also be instructed to help senior citizens, pregnant women, and PWDs obtain lower berths.
The middle berths of coaches will be reserved for women and senior citizens for safety reasons. Wheelchairs can soon be booked online for senior citizens, patients, and PWDs, through IRCTC at select stations. So far, 1,052 stations have been identified for upgradation of Passenger Amenities at Station under the Adarsh Stations scheme.
It is proposed to include 200 more stations in the scheme. Online booking of retiring rooms has already been initiated, and, now, a facility of self-operated lockers will also be made available at stations. Sources said concierge services will also be made available through IRCTC at major stations.
Mapping railway land
The railway minister said encroachment on railway land is a serious issue. To counter this, digitised mapping of land records has been initiated and responsibility will be fixed on officials for any encroachments. The Railways is also drawing up a comprehensive policy to tap the latent advertising potential at railway lands.
The authorities here have already identified Thane as a pilot project, though the state refused to go for commercial development of Mulund and Bhandup stations. The new strategy would harness all avenues, including offering stations and trains for corporate branding.
Juilee Ambekar, 23, student
It’s a mixed budget. While I’m happy that the railway minister refrained from hiking the fare, I was expecting a solution for the peak hour rush. A lot of commuters lose their lives while trying to board a moving train. So I was expecting that the minister would add a few trains on the Harbour line to reduce the crowd. Moreover, cleanliness will always remain an issue till the time stringent action is not initiated against litterbugs.
Debarghya Sengupta, 28, MNC employee
No fare hike is a welcome step. However, when it comes to women’s safety, it should not be restricted only to inside the trains or at the platforms. The entire station premises must be secured. As I return home late from work, I often spot drug peddlers and junkies moving around freely on the station premises. This is a recipe for disaster.
Sameer Patankar, 21, service
I’m happy with the overall budget. But it lacks special provisions for cities like Thane and Kalyan that are equally important as Mumbai. Despite the fact that population in these cities is burgeoning, these areas remain neglected.
Kirti Ajmani, 42, entrepreneur
The focus on women’s safety and installation of CCTV cameras in ladies compartments is a huge relief. Local trains have always been notorious for crime against women. Cameras will make nighttime journeys a lot safer.
Parth Kamat, 24, computer engineer
The importance of Wi-Fi is paramount in today’s world. The government, which at times has been termed orthodox, has taken the step in the right direction. Creation of Wi-Fi zones at stations across India is
a move that will be welcomed by commuters of all age groups.
Mayuresh Kulkarni, 35, service
As the railway minister has now made it easy for senior citizens to book lower berths, people like me, who travel with old parents, can heave a sigh of relief. At least now I don’t have to request or argue with unruly co-passengers over swapping lower berths with my parents.