As scores of commuters rush past her, 63-year-old T.Nandini firmly grips the railing with both hands and gets down the staircase with considerable effort. She chooses not to be hasty, as it was only last month that her elder sister slipped on the same staircase.
At the bottom of the stairs, her relative P. Saraswathy, points to a large puddle that had collected from a malfunctioning drinking water tap and warns her to be careful. “These stairs are incredibly narrow and they are a huge nuisance to commuters,” says Ms. Saraswathy.
The flight of stairs, from Gandhi Irwin Road, at the Egmore Railway Station serves as a crucial link for hundreds of commuters who take the long distance and suburban EMU trains. It is at one of the end of the station and connects several platforms and the suburban booking office. The office was recently moved to the side of the station bordering Poonamallee High Road.
While some of the concrete steps are broken, leaving jagged edges, others are worn out. “During rush hour, the crowd pushes you down the stairs. This is quite dangerous especially when it rains,” says a regular commuter between Tambaram Sanatorium and Egmore, who did not want to be named.
Adjacent to this staircase, on platform 4, are several pieces of metal, with an unfinished structure — a new staircase in the making.
S. Anantharaman, Divisional Railway Manager, Chennai Division, says the alternative stairway will be completed very soon. “Once the structure comes up, the old stairway will be closed for public use,” he says. So far, no casualties have been reported by commuters, he adds. But 14-year-old S. Ashok who helps his mother sell toys outside the entrance says he has seen several people fall down the stairs. “I have seen people who have hurt their arm because of the fall,” he adds.
The officials have been repeatedly made aware of the plight of this staircase, says C.M.Jayaraman, a consumer activist.