Monu Kumar on his way to platform No. 1 at Ranchi station on Friday. The differently abled teenager had to climb down stairs because the escalator developed a snag. (Prashant Mitra)
Retired engineer R.W. Pandey lugged his heavy bags up 30 steps at Ranchi station because the much-touted moving stairway at the A-category train terminal froze on Friday.
“Ye kya baat hui; escalator kabhi chalta hai, kabhi kharab hota hai (We fail to understand why the escalator is out of order so often),” the 68-year-old muttered in exasperation as he and his wife struggled to reach platform No. 4 from where they later caught a train to Lohardaga.
Rotu Dey who was helping his ailing father climb stairs couldn’t agree more. “The escalators work intermittently. My father has fever and is climbing steps with great difficulty, but we have to take the train to Muri,” Dey said as the elderly man took a break and slumped on the stairs.
The South Eastern Railway’s Rs 1-crore endeavour to offer comfort travel to elderly, indisposed and disabled passengers in Ranchi has come a cropper because the two escalators, which were imported from China and debuted on platforms one and four on December 10 last year — often remain paralysed owing to erratic power supply and infrequent maintenance.
On Friday afternoon, a group of senior citizens and frequent commuters approached station manager H.K. Pandey seeking redress. Passenger gripe prompted the authorities to press two fourth grade railway employees, instead of trained technicians, into service to fix the problem. “We are trying to restart the conveyor,” said Naresh Mahto, one of the employees.
After 15 minutes, Renu Kerketta, an arts student, was seen using the escalator. Asked if they were glad with the service, the young woman sounded sceptical. “Abhi turant thik hua hai. Humlog bahut der tak wait kar rahe the. Pata nahi phir kab bigadh jaye (The escalator was fixed just now. We had waited for long. You never know when it goes kaput again),” she said.
Neeraj Kumar, senior divisional commercial manager of SER, said they were aware of the glitch, which he claimed was solely caused by interrupted power supply. “I will talk to electricity officials and call the contractor too. In the meantime, we have made alternative arrangements. We have wheelchairs and battery-operated cars to ferry the disabled and senior citizens to their respective platforms,” he added.
According to technical experts, an escalator — basically a motor-driven conveyor transport device — develops snags when not maintained frequently and properly. “All moving walkways must be design registered and instructions for upkeep provided by the company must be strictly followed to avoid glitches,” one of them said.
DRM Deepak Kashyap too conceded that escalators could freeze when upkeep was questionable. “We need to carry out constant follow up. Within a month, we will ensure smooth functioning,” he promised.
While Ranchi received its walkway wonder last year, Dhanbad is the only other station in Jharkhand to boast the same. The Rs 90-lakh twin escalators debuted on platforms two and three of the coal junction on March 23 this year. There have been no passenger grievances so far.
Have you faced problems while taking the station escalator?