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May 12, 2018

Lahore Railway Station—a picture of neglect


May 12, 2018

LAHORE: Despite having Rs35 million rupees for the maintenance and repair of railways Lahore Division, still the only luggage scanning machine of Lahore Railway Station is out of order for last three months.

Presenting the historic vision, the station is now owned by Pakistan Railways, and also serves as its headquarters located just outside the Walled City at the intersection of Empress Road, Allama Iqbal Road and Circular Road.

Daily more than two lakh people travel through this station and more than 50 trains pass by the junction. Who knows what is in the luggage of a person? There is no one to even check the luggage manually.

If we talk about the environment of the station, it looks like a local platform with no cleanliness. Offensive smell here won't allow anybody to stand on the premises for more than 10 minutes. Public washrooms are infected with so many bacteria that one cannot even imagine using them.

The area where the drinking water coolers are installed is covered with dust, dirt and rust. All the time water is on the floor and their filters are filthy. You can find all types of insects around water coolers.

All the platforms and the walls are full with the spit of beetle and not a single sweeper is there to clean them. When the station master was asked about the notice that reads “if a person spits on the platform he will be fined Rs500”, he replied that not a single person is ever fined on this.

Stray dogs are running around the platforms as they cannot be controlled because the station is not covered from all the sides. The room of station master is the house of a cat’s family and you will start sneezing if you last there more than five minutes.

The condition of trains is also not that as is glorified. Air-conditioned sleepers’ seats are so dusty that if you pat on them there will be dust in the air for a long time. Washrooms are not clean and people were complaining about them. Seats of economy class are always full of dust because windows have been broken and gates do not close properly.

A passenger named Asia said, “I am travelling to Karachi and the journey is very long. I cannot sit on the flush system due to pain in my knees and back and the commode system is so dirty that I cannot perform my Namaz after that. But we cannot do anything about this as this is the cheapest source of travelling and we cannot afford more than this.”

The canteen owners are overcharging and the meal which is served in the trains is not up to the mark. Ayyaz, travelling to Rawalpindi said, “We prefer homemade food when we travel by train. If we take anything during the journey, my family members fall ill.”

The railway track is full of water as the drainage system is also not functional. No one is there to ask what is going on. The parking mafia is charging every car Rs50 each while the parking ticket clearly says that single car will be charged Rs20 for the first hour and after that Rs10 will be charged hourly. When they were asked about this they flared up and said give whatever you want.

No security, no authority and no maintenance, railway station is working like a forest where everyone is doing whatever he wants to do. Even the ticket collector will not ask you about your platform ticket and you can roam around the station freely. No security will check your bag and no one will ask you what you are doing roaming around the station and clicking pictures.

The station’s grandeur and opulence are ruined due to excessive encroachments around it. The station has its historic significance. Lahore station was built during the colonial era, by Mian Muhammad Chughtai, a former official of the Mughal Empire in 1860. Construction commenced shortly after the failed Mutiny of 1857 against British rule, and so was built in the style of a medieval castle with thick walls, turrets, and holes to direct gun and cannon fire for the defence of the structure.

Talking to The News, Divisional Superintendent Sufyan Dogar said, “The luggage scanning machine was installed there by Railway Police and its warranty is no longer available. Its repair will cost approximately Rs2.5 to Rs2.6 million and we do not have the budget for this. We have written them to use their own budget for this.”

“For the maintenance of the railway station a sum of Rs50 million has been approved. We have installed fans, Victorian lights and free-of-cost mobile charging points at the railway station. Renovation and maintenance of Lahore railway station is also a part of CPEC. This is very important that we should perform our duty but we have to educate our public also. It is very difficult to control the crowd at peak hours,” he said.

Talking about the cleanliness he said, “We are planning to outsource our janitorial service. We have made model stations in Narowal, Okara and Raiwind. State-of-the-art facilities are present at these stations. When it comes to Lahore railway station, we have to take care of its heritage also.

There was a steam engine, we have placed it in the garden and Parks and Horticulture Authority will redecorate it. We have written to city district government many times for the removal of encroachments around the station and many times they have performed the operation but still, people do not understand the law. Our first priority was to improve our trains and the maintenance of the stations was the secondary task. Now the trains are doing well and we will definitely work on the maintenance.

Our freight trains have regained strength. Now 13 freight trains are working and we have raised this number from 1. We are seeing development but we need more time. In three years, railway has increased its income to Rs50 billion but still, we need more money to overcome the loss.”

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