Free parking is rarely fascinating for passengers at Tatanagar where the railway authorities indulge in a bizarre roulette with private agencies time and again.
So, when the Friday morning train crowd was greeted with the notice ‘free parking’ tailed with the rider ‘please park vehicle at your own risk’, few were actually amused. This was the third time that parking was made free at the station in the past decade.
Divisional commercial manager of Chakradharpur S. Kole confirmed that parking at Tatanagar had been made free from Thursday midnight after the contract with the erstwhile agency, Ganpati Enterprise, expired. Tentatively, a fresh tender may be floated on Monday and it will automatically take some more time for a deal to be inked.
“We had to take the decision because a new agency is yet to be roped in despite repeated attempts. The parking lot will be free till such time when we sign another contract. But, the railways will take no responsibility if any vehicle gets stolen or damaged,” Kole said.
The A1 station’s parking lot hosts over 4,000 two-wheelers and 1,000 four-wheelers every day. A selected agency is required to guarantee complete security in lieu of the parking fee. Now, with no agency in charge, car and bike thieves will have free run, fear passengers.
Rakesh Tiwary, who rode his bike to Tatanagar on Friday to make reservation, returned home to bring his cousin along after he saw the notice. “Bike-lifting is a bane for the city. It is foolish to park vehicles at the station unguarded. I did not take a chance,” Tiwary said.
Vivek Ahuja, a resident of Golmuri, had come to Tatanagar to receive a guest. “After seeing the notice, I decided to wait outside with my bike till my relative came out of the station. The railways should make arrangements to ensure safety of our vehicles. This is just not fair,” he said.
Divisional commercial manager Kole expressed helplessness. He said they had first tried to fix a three-year parking contract, but successful bidders failed to provide the required bank guarantee.
“Then, we invited three-month quotation tenders. Parties that responded quoted too low. We issued quotation tenders four times between June 29 and July 9, but every time the quotation was below the specified bidding amount. That is when we decided to make the parking free for sometime. Another quotation tender will be up tentatively on Monday,” Kole said.
On why they needed to outsource the job, Kole said cited manpower crunch. “We do not have people to man the parking lot. Besides, the laid down rule is that railway parking must be run by private contractors.”
Vinay Singh, proprietor of Ganpati Enterprise, maintained that they had watched over vehicles until Thursday midnight. “After that I instructed my staff not to issue any ticket for the parking,” he said.
Singh’s agency too had quoted for the July 9 tender, but took a step back because the railways did not slash the bidding amount from Rs 36 lakh. “The quotation tender is given for three months. During monsoon, there are few vehicles. Had we bid at par with the specified amount, we would have incurred losses. After the rains, we may reconsider.”