Howrah: India’s largest and busiest railway station have been rid of more than 100 illegal stalls since a drive started last month to reclaim space for passengers boarding or disembarking from up to 520 trains every day.
Railway officials said Howrah station, which currently has an average daily footfall of 10 lakh, would see more changes focused on making the passenger experience better.
The increase in platform space for passengers hasn’t come at the cost of conveniences. Vending machines for packaged water have been set up on several platforms for passengers to refill their bottles or buy new ones. A 300ml refill costs Re 1 while a new bottle costs Rs 2. A five-litre refill is priced Rs 20 and a new bottle containing the same volume of water sells for Rs 25.
Parcel vans that move through the concourse towards the platforms are often obstacles for passengers in a hurry, especially during the usual morning and evening rush. The railway authorities have come out with a plan to route parcel vans through a pathway that leads to the rear of the platforms so that they don’t come in the way of passengers in the concourse.
A Government Railway Police outpost and a guardroom near platform number 5 are to be shifted elsewhere.
The old, noisy fans in the concourse are being replaced with larger and more powerful ones to make summer more bearable. “We are getting 11 fans to cover the entire concourse. Three have been installed and the rest will be up in a week or two,” an official said.
Seating capacity is being increased by more than a thousand in the concourse area, where passengers sitting or lying down on the floor is one of the more familiar sights. The railway authorities have identified unregulated advertising as a threat to the heritage of the station building, designed by the British architect Halsey Ricardo and inaugurated in 1905.
An 18 x 21ft video wall will be set up near the Food Plaza by next week to display black-and-white pictures of old Calcutta. There will be six such screens across the station.
Five vending machines for sanitary napkins are being set up inside and near the washrooms for women. Incinerators will be placed alongside the machines for easy and scientific disposal. Two such machines have already been installed in the adjoining new complex.