Differently-abled persons and senior citizens can heave a sigh of relief at Coimbatore junction platforms in March when southern railways will make available battery operated cars that will take them to their respective train coaches.
The facility has already been introduced in Salem and Chennai railway stations and will be operated here on private sponsorship basis.
"We will have battery-operated cars for disabled people and senior citizens at the railway station in the first week of March. It is part of our people friendly initiatives at the railway stations," said Sujatha Jayaraj, divisional railway manager, Salem, southern railways.
The car will be stationed on the platform along with a driver. The vehicle is to be utilised by senior citizens, disabled people and pregnant women to move from one end of the platform to the other. At the moment there will be only one car deployed at platform 1 and 2 at the railway junction.
"The car will have one man to operate it and passengers who find it difficult to move along with their luggage from the platform to their railway compartments could make use of the battery cars. It will be mainly for the use of senior citizens, disabled people and others who cannot move freely due to their physical conditions," said a senior southern railway official.
The cars are being introduced at railway platforms under private sponsorship. Officials claimed that the railways will not have to bear any expense in operating these cars as the entire expense will be borne by private firms involved in the project. The total cost of the car is estimated to be about Rs 5lakh. Apart from a luggage rack it will also have a first aid compartment in it.
However it is literally a Herculean task for the differently-abled and senior citizens to gain access to the platforms from the main entrance of Coimbatore railway junction. In the absence of proper lift and escalator facilities to the platform, these people are also forced to use the stairs to reach the platform.
"The ramps provided for the differently-abled and senior citizens are being used by everyone and also for pushing trolleys. Gaining access to the platform itself is a very difficult task. The parcel lifts are also in very bad condition. Wheel chair facility is also not being properly provided to us," said Suriya Nagappan, a 42 year old with orthopaedic disability and the president of Caliber, an association of differently abled persons in Coimbatore.
However railway officials claimed that once the ongoing escalator and subway works are completed then the differently abled people will have better access to the platform
"We will introduce more facilities for disabled people at the railway station," Sujatha Jayaraj added.