Focus is back on passenger amenities

Post pandemic, Southern Railway is slowly resuming the implementation of various infrastructure projects

Several infrastructure projects were thrown into disarray when normal suburban train operations were shut down for nearly 20 months owing to the pandemic.

These included commissioning of lifts and escalators, construction of foot over bridges (FOBs), maintenance of public conveniences and extension of platforms, apart from routine upkeep of stations.

With the Southern Railway resuming full-fledged suburban train services from November 15 and footfalls slowly returning to the pre-COVID levels, the focus has returned to the need for improved passenger amenities.

The Chennai Division, which manages the suburban train services, is slowly resuming operations to implement several passenger amenities. It is speeding up construction of FOBs, commissioning of escalators and lifts, installation of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras and maintenance of stations.

Work in progress

B. Guganesan, Chief Public Relations Officer, Southern Railway, giving details of the passenger amenities projects, said the commissioning of lifts in Ambattur, Avadi, Villivakkam and Thiruninravur was underway, and construction of FOBs was in progress in Guindy and Avadi.

Extension of platforms for accommodating 12-car rakes had begun at Ambattur and Thiruninravur. Two lifts each are set to be installed in the Thiruninravur, Ambattur and Avadi stations.

The Chennai Division has been working on improving cleanliness and preventing trespassing of tracks to avoid accidents, studying the feasibility for making FOBs more commuter-friendly and improving the safety of passengers, particularly women, through a campaign of the Railway Protection Force (RPF), named ‘Meri Saheli’. These were initiated based on inspections carried out by a Divisional Railway Manager and senior railway officials.

Commuter feedback

The initiative was framed based on feedback received from commuters, associations and social activists.

A senior official of the Chennai Division acknowledged the upkeep of railway stations was affected after COVID-19, and multiple agencies were involved in the awarding of contracts for station upkeep. A new cleanliness policy has been formulated, wherein a well-coordinated mechanism for appointing and monitoring of the maintenance contractors has been set up. Soon, the efficiency of the cleanliness policy will be reflected in several stations on the Chennai Beach to Arakkonam, Sullurpet and Chengalpattu stretches, he said.

One of the major complaints in railway stations is the poor maintenance of public conveniences.

Hence, the Chennai Division has designed two maintenance models — sponsorship and pay-and-use. The pay-and-use model was already in use in the Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) and the sponsorship scheme would be rolled out soon in several railway stations. As part of improving the safety of the commuters, mainly women, the installation of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras in suburban stations through the Nirbhaya Fund is being carried out in three phases. The railway official said CCTV cameras would be installed in 17 stations by June, 26 stations in August and 31 stations in October next year.

The Chennai Division has created a dedicated wing of women RPF personnel who will travel in the ladies compartment to get feedback on security from commuters.

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