Losing its edge: Mumbai railway station boards to change from square to oval?

Updated: Dec 08, 2016, 10:57 IST | Shashank Rao |

The signs that you see at every railway station in Mumbai bearing its name may change their shape from square to oval if a proposal goes through, as they are a 'threat' to the disabled

Mahim Junction
Mahim Junction

The signs that you see at every station bearing its name may change their shape from square to oval if a proposal goes through. The Western Railway (WR) authorities have proposed to change the shape of the destination board to avoid the disabled from getting injured by the sharp edges.

"We have mooted the idea and prepared a prototype as well," confirmed Mukul Jain, divisional railway manager, WR. This could mean the end of a British legacy that marked its 116th anniversary this year. In 1908, the Underground Electric Railways Company of London first used a solid red circle behind station name boards. It was London Transport Chief Frank Pick who converted the circle into a ring.

Seen the huge yellow boards with the station name on it in black at the two ends of a station? That's all that was there until the early 19th century, when the Indian Railways decided to install metal boards indicating the station name inside a logo like the one found on the London Tube. And these square white boards with a red circle and blue rectangle interjecting, having the station name in Marathi, Hindi and English languages, are what the railways has proposed to be changed, which is being considered a first.

Idea takes shape
WR officials, who have made the proposal, refused to disclose the prototype, as the required permissions haven't been got yet. Sources said the idea has been mooted as station masters have been receiving complaints about the edges of these square boards injuring people as well as damaging commuters bags and clothes.

The logo on these boards is like the one found on the London Tube. Representational pic
The logo on these boards is like the one found on the London Tube. Representational pic

"Many of these boards have corroded, with the edges rusty. We have to replace them anyway, hence, we mooted this proposal of changing the shape," said a WR official. Authorities are currently trying to find out if there is any written rule by the Railway Board that mandates the shape, size and colour of these metal boards. A decision on changing the shape will be taken only if no such rule exists.

It's a first
During a recent visit and inspection by the Passenger Amenities Committee (PAC) to Mumbai, the issue of the metal boards was discussed. PAC member Mohammad Irfan Ahmad told mid-day: "I had asked them about the condition of the display boards; officials said they were working on having oval ones."

The proposal will now be sent to the WR headquarters and then to the Railway Board in Delhi for approval. If okayed, then other divisions across Indian Railways will also be able to change the shape of the station display boards. Railway historian Rajendra B. Aklekar said, "If the railways has proposed this, then it is happening for the first time, as the square shape was first decided on in the early 19th century."

Depending on the permissions they get, WR authorities will decide which stations will undergo the change in the first phase.

Queen's legacy?

The roundel was originally used by the London General Omnibus Company, London's principal bus operator between 1855 and 1933. In 1908, the Underground Electric Railways Company of London first used the solid red circle behind station name boards. London Transport chief Frank Pick, who was initially given responsibility for London Underground's publicity in 1908, made a disc out of the red roundel, asking designer Edward Johnston to develop and register it as a trademark.
- Rajendra B Aklekar

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