A colourful welcome

PRESENTING A bouquet to a guest is now possible right at the point where you receive him, at that most crowded of travel places - Chennai Central.

What was the preserve of the Chennai Airport - a florist's shop - is now open at the city's premier rail terminal, the gateway of Tamil Nadu. Realising that passengers would pay for some colour, the Southern Railway recently opened a florist shop at the station, where one can buy flowers for Rs. 5 to Rs. 300.

Like railway stations in western countries, we want to give more and more facilities to passengers at Chennai Central, the station managers say.

Construction of a new concourse at the station has come as a boon to the administration as it provided enough space for introducing hi- tech facilities, says Mr. R. Gopinathan Nair, Divisional Railway Manager, Chennai.

Recently Higginbothams opened a new bookstore at the station. Earlier the Higginbothams stall was selling daily newspapers, periodicals and some books. Now, in the newly opened showroom at the new concourse, books on diverse subjects including medicines and computers are on display. Special counters have been opened for sale of cassettes, CDs, and stationery.

Passengers will soon be able to get a cellphone on hire. This will be useful for business passengers, who visit the city on short stay. Indian Bank has announced that it will open an ATM centre at the station with provision for coin dispensers and foreign currency change facilities. An Internet cafe is also to be opened.

The idea of opening a deluxe AC waiting hall for passengers, who come on a day's visit to the city for business purpose has moved forward with floating of a tender. Bathrooms of star hotel standard will be provided at the waiting hall where passengers will be given toiletries, apart from a free cup of coffee and newspapers. They are allowed to stay for a maximum period of four hours on a nominal charge.

Though it sounds far-fetched at present, hiring of cars and two- wheelers hire at the station is among the Railway's plans, though it is anyone's guess when, if at all, such a move takes off.

As the station is used by not less than 1.25 lakh people a day, steps are being taken to provide a full-fledged medical centre with round the clock doctor and ambulance on call. The centre is to be set up in collaboration with a renowned hospital, which is to be selected on a tender basis.

Meanwhile, the Chennai Corporation has asked the Railway to allocate space to provide information about the city to passengers and this will be done, according to Mr. Gopinathan Nair.

By S. Vydhianathan