Delhi’s old railway stations are filthy, unsafe

दिल्ली Delhi (DLI): Some of the oldest railway stations in the national capital are in a shambles while others have dark, unsafe zones within their premises. Even as 10 April to 16 April was observed as the Railway Week, Delhi’s busiest railway junctions are found to be failing on several counts. They lack basic amenities and hold several unsafe spots. The traffic management around the stations is erratic in a manner such that it hampers passengers’ movement.

The oldest railway junction in the national capital is the Old Delhi Railway Station or Delhi Junction and is housed in a heritage building established in 1864. It was opened to the public in 1903 by the British Indian Government. However, the station over the years has come to be synonymous with filthy platforms, persistent stench, poorly maintained civic amenities and bad management of trains. Once the most important and only connecting link to other states, this station has now been reduced to operating mostly low-grade trains. The junction that handles 250 mail and passenger trains witnesses a footfall of over 3,00,000 passengers every day. Passengers must weave their way past the manually-pulled carts carrying huge cargo cartons.

“It is almost a stampede-like situation here on each platform. Passengers boarding often stumble over the goods carts haphazardly kept in the middle of the platform. Many people have complained about this problem to the station manager, however the situation remains unchanged,” said Sanjay Kaushik, who frequents this junction for his business tours to Kanpur.

When this correspondent visited the spot, the station’s white roof and walls on platform number 1 were freshly painted. However, it could not hide the patches of the leaking roof and spider webs in its corners.

Many platforms were broken in the middle and at the corners while some had been dug up for maintenance work since quite a few months. Heaps of waste could be seen on the platforms and the stench of urine emanating from the tracks was almost unbearable.

“The walls were painted a few days ago because of the impending railway week. This station was renovated some time back, but has returned to its old, neglected form,” said a railway worker, who has been working here for the last 30 years.

Elevators, including those to the waiting room and station exits, were not functional.

“Though the escalators to platforms are running, the huge rush on it makes it difficult for the elderly to step on it. My grandmother had to walk up the long flight of stairs, as the lifts here remain out of order most of the times,” said another commuter who lives in the nearby Chandni Chowk.

However, a Northern Railway official denied that the station has been in a state of disrepair since long. He said, “Plans are in pipeline to refurbish the station and the connecting rail bridges.”

The Sarai Rohilla Railway Station on the New Rohtak Road is another place that raises serious questions on passenger security and lack of basic amenities. Built in 1872, as a halt terminal, the station has not been upgraded over the years. There are no elevators or escalators to its six platforms.

“One of the two main entry points to the station has a large abandoned field next to it, which has become a hub for anti-social elements. There are no police barriers erected nor any police personnel guarding this vulnerable entry/exit point,” said a member of the local railway passengers union.

Even the interiors of the station have deserted corners adjoining a dilapidated building and huge bushes around the corner. The washrooms are filthy with broken ceilings and are located far from the platforms.

The scan machines for security check at the entry to Anand Vihar Railway Terminal often remain non-functional while at times the RPF has to carry out searches without the use of metal detectors. The terminal does not even have a taxi stand and passengers have to walk a few kilometers before they can avail public transport.

Meanwhile, the VIP entry to platform number 1 of the New Delhi Railway Station on the State Entry Road remains a dark zone even after the horrific incident of gang rape of a foreign national here this year.