BENGALURU: Besides its salubrious climate, the city’s public transport system – though far from perfect – has had a huge role in turning Bengaluru into a global IT hub. The many railway stations, situated at key locations across the city, afford the citizens of the rapidly expanding city to board and alight at places most convenient to them, saving them the trouble of having to commute long distances on congested streets. However, facilities at these stations are not conducive for the elderly, who have a tough time navigating these vast terminals. From low platforms to dysfunctional lifts, and lack of ferry carts, facilities for senior citizens at these stations leaves a lot to be desired.
TOI takes a look at the conditions in the railway stations across the city, and assesses how accessible they are for senior citizens.
Unreliable ferry cart service at KSR station, Majestic
In a bid to save senior citizens, and the physically challenged, the hassle of lugging around heavy luggage, five subway lifts and four escalators were set up at the Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna (KSR) station at Majestic. However, two lifts haven’t been functioning for the past few days.
For a station with more than 10 platforms, which sees nearly two lakh people entering and leaving the gates on a daily basis, KSR station has just three battery operated ferry carts for senior citizens. “Two weeks ago, I was at the station to receive a relative who had undergone surgery and I asked the officials for a cart. They told me it had been discontinued following an accident,” said Jeyachandran S, a resident of Raja Rajeshwari Nagar.
Although cart service has resumed, passengers face difficulties booking these carts, as operators seldom answer their phones. Aditya Narayan, 70, said, “We had to board a train to Guwahati at night, and my son tried to get in touch with the operators. One driver appeared to have dozed off, while another said the vehicle was being charged.”
A railway protection officer posted at the station pointed out that passengers’ unfamiliarity with the escalators resulted in around 20 accidents daily. “Senior citizens prefer to take the skywalk,” he added.
Commuters also complained of the long wait for lifts. “The lifts are too few. As a result, they are always full,” they said.
Facilities at Yeshwantpur insufficient, say passengers
The second busiest railway terminal in the city, lifts and escalators were recently installed at the Yeshwantpur Junction. However, senior citizens still face problems navigating the junction despite the presence of these facilities.
Chitta Roy, 78, of West Bengal said that her experience at the Yeshwantpur station had been harrowing. “I’ve come to Bengaluru twice to visit my children. The lifts were too crowded, and the wait wasn’t worth it. I had to climb the ramp. Following this incident, my children suggested I take a flight instead,” she added.
The station has three lifts, four escalators and two ferry carts, but passengers said that these facilities were insufficient. “I travel to Bengaluru often from Indore to see my daughter. Trains are economical, but the lack of facilities, especially in moving luggage between platforms, makes it hard. Also, the coolies charge very high prices,” said Shanthala Manjunath, another passenger.
Ramps too crowded to accommodate wheelchairs at KR Puram
Although it’s one of the city’s oldest railway stations, facilities for the elderly at the KR Puram Station are very poor. Besides the lack of lifts and escalators, the station is equipped with just two wheelchairs and one ramp, which are woefully inadequate to handle nearly 1,000 passengers that the terminal sees on a daily basis.
Rajeshwari S, a septuagenarian from east Bengaluru, who uses the station regularly said that the foot-overbridge at the terminal was very old. “It’s tough for senior citizens, since we have to climb the stairs. The platforms are not long enough, and many passengers travelling in general compartments have to wait near the tracks,” she said.
Namitha Iyer, who was travelling to Chennai, pointed out that, owing to the crowd, wheelchairs could hardly navigate through the ramp. “People have to shout and ask passengers to make way for the wheelchair. Officials must install a lift at the earliest,” she added.
Shivam S, a retired serviceman and heart patient, dubbed the KR Puram station the worst in terms of accessibility. “I use the KR Puram station since it’s close to my home. The platforms are very low, and boarding trains is very difficult,” said Shivam, a resident of Marathahalli.
Also, the many daily-wage labourers living on the outskirts who use the station have little option but to cross the tracks and rush towards the trains. “We have to wait at the end of the track to board the train sometimes,” one of them told TOI.
Commuters prefer to cross tracks at Cantonment
One of the most prominent vestiges of Bengaluru’s tryst with colonialism, the Cantonment railway station, which has been ferrying the city’s denizens since 1864, has no lifts, escalators or ramps. Passengers at the city’s oldest station have to use a foot-overbridge connecting the two platforms to move around the station.
MR Damodaran, who travels to Mysuru on a regular basis, said that the bridge was at the very end of the platform, and passengers had to walk a considerable distance to reach it. “As a result, those in a hurry resort to crossing tracks. The railways must install an escalator here, for the benefit of the elderly, the physically challenged and those carrying heavy luggage,” he added.
BL Khandelwal, who was at the station to receive a relative, complained that the station had very few bathrooms. “The floor, too, can be made even,” he said.
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