K.N. Murali Sankar

Infrastructure issues apart, security too has become a major challenge

Railway Board includes Vijayawada in its ‘Integrated Security Scheme’

Need for one more railway station in the city highlighted

VIJAYAWADA: The Vijayawada railway junction, which hosts about 143 trains a day and witnesses a commuter rush of 5,000 to 6,000 people at any given point of time, continues to be plagued by shortage of staff and delay in commencement of developmental works.

On an average, about 40,000 people board different trains every day and an equal number of commuters get down from the trains passing through, or terminating at, the station. Each train stops at least for 20 minutes, when all the coaches of 24 major Express trains are cleaned by the members of the Clean Train Station service. Water is filled into all the coaches of all the trains passing through the station for drinking and toilet purposes.

Though the station has got a completely new look in the last five years, thanks mainly to a change in the policy of the Indian Railways, many more works are still under progress.

“We are now focussing on improving facilities on platform numbers 8, 9 and 10. Works worth Rs. 18.7 crores are under progress. In the current financial year we have allocated Rs. 3.5 crores for these works,” says Vasishta Johri, Divisional Railway Manager of the Vijayawada Division.

Infrastructure issues apart, security too has become a major challenge, particularly in the wake of terrorist attack on Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai. The detention of Bangladeshi nationals on the suspicion that they were travelling with false documents too highlighted the need for focussing more on security.

Officials say the Railway Board has included Vijayawada in its ‘Integrated Security Scheme’, as part of which a compound wall will be constructed around the station premises and the number of entry and exit points will be minimised. Besides strengthening the Railway Protection Force, modern surveillance gadgets will also be installed on the station premises. “In the next six months, the new security scheme will be implemented here. The Board has already begun the process of implementing the scheme,” says Mr. Johri.

However, civil society groups feel the need for evolving an alternative strategy like developing one more railway station in the city. Senior citizen Katragadda Narasayya, who is also president of the Citizens Forum for City Development, says: “The new station can be dedicated to inter-city trains and passenger trains, so that the pressure on the main station will get reduced. Till a couple of years ago, Satyanarayanapuram station served such a need for many people. After its closure, the burden on the main station has increased as there is no other railway station in the city.” He also points to the need for installation of escalators on all platforms for taking passengers in both directions (up and down). “It will save a lot of time and energy of commuters,” he feels.

Shortage of staff is another major problem that will have to be dealt with by the Railway Board, says representatives of the Railway employees union. “In Vijayawada alone, there is a need for recruiting 400 employees in running, operations and signalling sections and another 100 employees in ticket checking and ticket booking counters,” says P.S. Charan, divisional secretary of the South Central Railway Mazdoor Union.

Pointing out that the present workforce is made to bear the burden of additional workload, he observes: “The number of employees should be on a par with the number of trains. Unfortunately, the Railways is keen on allocating new trains and operating special trains, but there is no focus on filling of vacancies.”