Mending stairways, anyone?

October 25, 2015

The lack of escalators and wheelchairs at the Lahore Railway Station makes it hard for the old, the ailing and the handicapped to get from one platform to another

Mending stairways, anyone?

Said to be the largest and the busiest in the country, the Lahore Railway Station today is a sad picture of a mega building structure that is poorly managed. Where, on the one hand, you find metal walkthroughs and police personnel parading the gates and the platforms, giving the place the look of a fortress -- obviously, for the security of the passengers and their friends and families -- on the other hand, it is clear that the railway authorities have failed to provide care for their elderly and ailing customers.

Decades old stairways, which need to be replaced with escalators, and the unavailability of wheelchairs -- come to think of it, there is only one at hand -- cause troubles for passengers, especially those that are old and disabled, who must get to the next platform to catch their train.

At the nine functional platforms (out of the total of 11), the passengers have to climb the never-ending stairs to get from point A to B. They have no choice.

One wonders whether installing escalators and providing a handful of wheelchairs is asking too much.

Interestingly, Punjab government’s current favourite Metro Bus stations have got this facility, not to mention the airport. But the country’s biggest railway station is the most neglected.

"I’ve been trying to get hold of a wheelchair," said a passenger who was literally carrying his old mother on his back. "I approached the help centre at Platform 2 but they had none to spare. In fact, we were told that there’s only one [wheelchair] available but someone was using it at the time, so we should wait."

Talking to TNS, a railway porter said, "Thousands of people travel daily from the Lahore Railway Station and they use the existing stairways for shuttling between the platforms. A lot of them come across as old, weak and unwell. It is not a pretty sight, watching them slog their way up and down the stairs."

A ticket checker, who was standing close to the help centre, seconded the porter, "The stairways should be replaced with escalators. Or, at least, there should be a number of wheelchairs available for use."

The Station Master at Platform 2 also spoke of a criminal shortage of wheelchairs at the Lahore Railway Station. "We had one in my office," he said, "which, in addition to the one available at the help centre, was up for use by the passengers. But its wheels came off; they haven’t been repaired since."

The Station Master, not wanting to be named, said that he intended to write to the concerned authorities about this.

When quizzed, a police official said, "My heart goes out to the suffering passengers. But it must be stated that when somebody approaches the help centre for a wheelchair and is told to wait, they usually don’t like the idea and get upset.

Another railway official said, "There are big railway contractors such as Shalimar Express and Business Train; they can easily arrange dozens of wheelchairs. But, unfortunately, neither the government nor the private contractors are interested in the passengers’ welfare.

"Perhaps, the welfare and charity organisations will have to come forward and do the needful."

Mending stairways, anyone?