The tag-line of Indian Railways is “Lifeline to the nation…”. Another strong contender for the Indian Railways tag-line can be “Keep Climbing”.
Indian Railways has numerous objectives – some stated, some un-stated. One of the un-stated objectives is to keep the passengers of the Indian Railways fit and healthy.
Indian Railways shows to the world that India has very few elderly and negligible physically handicapped people staying in the country. In fact, Indian Railways only believes in the youth of the country who can step up and step down.
Indian Railways has the responsibility to protect jobs and ensures that the job of a coolie will always have a bright future.
Indian Railways ensures that the legacy, the tradition, the rituals of a train travel established since the British Rule remains relevant today and for that matter, even in years to come.
How do you suppose Indian Railways goes about doing all the above tasks and more? The answer is Indian Railways’ Escalator Policy.
Number of escalators present
As per Ministry of Railways, as on 14th March 2018, 473 escalators at 171 stations have been provided. This does not come to even 3 escalators per railway station.
It effectively means that Railways has provided for an escalator to go to Platform Number 2 and Platform Number 4, not beyond that. If you account for more number of escalators at large junctions, other stations actually have only 1 escalator.
Considering the length of the platforms and the multiple entry gates, the walk to the escalator, provided it is present, is a journey in itself.
And to top it all, Indian Railways think that escalators only climb up and they do not come down. It is a rarity to see an escalator than travels down on any of the stations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention
Indian Railways had decided to provide escalators at all stations having footfalls of 25,000 and above on a daily basis. Accordingly, Railway had planned to provide additional 2589 additional escalators at Railway Stations.
Now, from somewhere and somehow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi found the time and the inclination to intervene in this issue. He increased the foot-fall requirement to 1,00,000 per day to qualify for the railway station to have an escalator. This effectively meant that Indian Railways has already fulfilled the criteria and it does not require any more escalators. No escalators, please.
The Escalator Cess
The Indian Government loves to collect all kinds of surcharge and cess. For once, if Indian Railways decided to collect the Escalator Cess and use it to actually build them, the passengers would have welcomed the idea with a fresh pair of legs. 355 Cr non-suburban passengers travelled on the Indian Railways network in 2016-17. A voluntary cess of Rs. 10/- (having a conversion rate of 10%) or a non-voluntary cess of Rs. 1/- per passenger would have led to an additional revenue of 355 Cr and installation of 355 escalators per year. (Cost of one escalator is one Crore for Indian Railways).
Just that it is will not occur to Indian Railways and even if it does, the Indian travellers will not trust the opaque government to do any good with the money collected. No escalators, please.
Service to senior citizens
Indian Railways has the nerve to ask the senior citizens to forgo the discount – 100% or 50%. Between July 2017 and March 31, 2018 – more than 10 lakh senior citizens had given up 100 per cent of their concession, while more than nine lakh had given up 50 per cent of their concession, resulting in a saving of more than Rs 32.30 crore. On an average, this comes to Rs. 3.5 Cr a month.
Indian Railways considers this amount a saving and would not want to use it for rendering services to the senior citizens. It ensures that they get to climb and descend should their trains not turn up on the first or the last platform.
For the senior citizens, it is a pain to get into the train, use the toilet; at the least, it can be made easier for them to reach the coach but Indian Railways would have none of it. No escalators, please.
Dynamic fare contributed income of Rs. 860 Cr in 2017-18. Will these travellers avoid the fate of climbing up the staircase? No ways.
Elphinstone Road stampede
23 people died in the stampede at the Elphinstone Road Station on 29 September 2017. It gets mentioned all over that the stampede started on the foot over-bridge. Where did the people die? They died on the steps and not on the foot over-bridge.
What is the government reaction? A new foot over-bridge built by the army in 4 months time.
The passengers need to keep climbing. No escalators, please. (I am not implying that having an escalator would have avoided the stampede, but it is also not the reason to not have an escalator).
To be honest, even if Indian Railways puts up a ramp for each of the platforms and not an escalator, it is perfectly fine. After all, wheel-chairs can use the ramp, elderly need not balance themselves on the escalator which anyways does not help them in coming down, and services of the coolie can be surrendered.
Ever wondered why each mall/ multiplex/metro station has an escalator? They are forced to care for customer service lest they will not come. For a monopoly like Indian Railways, customer service leave aside customer delight is a non-existent notion.
Keep Climbing. No escalators, please.