Citizen audit finds issues aplenty in Perambur Railway Station

Not enough public toilets, missing station masters and inadequate lift facilities are some issues flagged by a citizens' audit of Perambur rail station.

The Perambur railway station is the second oldest railway station in the city after Royapuram. The ISO 9000 certified station sees a footfall of 80,000 passengers every day with close to 80 Express Trains stopping at the station. But users and commuters have over the years noticed glaring issues in amenities available at the station.

Members of Perambur Neighborhood Development Forum & Community Welfare Brigade, a citizens welfare group comprising residents in the area, had an opportunity to visit the Perambur Railway Station to conduct an audit on the infrastructure and the passenger amenities on offer. After carefully reviewing all the facilities we have prepared a detailed report which will be submitted to the officials of the Southern Railways for review and corrective action in the interest of the general public.     

Read more: Citizens’ wishlist: How to make Perambur railway station user-friendly

Lack of adequate space and toilet facilities at Perambur station

One of the key issues noticed by the members is the absence of proper waiting halls for passengers. The absence of proper waiting halls with attached toilet facilities causes a lot of inconvenience to the commuters who wait for long periods of time. It is important for senior officials from the Southern Railways to look into the possibility of constructing a waiting room with all the basic amenities such as  attached rest rooms, wi-fi facility, drinking water for commuters.

passengers wait for trains on platform
Passengers waiting on Platform 1. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

Another issue is the lack of functional lifts for passengers. A lift facility has been provided on Platform 4 but it doesn’t serve much practical purpose. Passengers who travel to distant places use Platforms 1 & 2 extensively and carry a lot of luggage. This would mean that these are the platforms that require lift service most.

Senior citizens mostly travel only on express trains and use the suburban trains very rarely. It would have made good sense to provide similar facilities in Platform 1 and 2 and 3 where they board these trains.

Parking is another issue that members noticed upon entering the premises. The parking space provided at the main entrance to the Railway Station is reserved exclusively for the Railway and Police Personnel who work within the Station premises. The space is also used for ambulances during any emergency. Rampant illegal parking of two wheelers and auto rickshaws in this spot is a matter of concern. Since this parking lot is free of cost, commuters seem to be exploiting the facility. The railway administration needs to demarcate a small area for the staff parking and collect a parking fee from the others who choose to park the vehicle near the main gate.

haphazardly parked vehicles at the parking lot
Parking facilities are haphazard and do not have room for emergency vehicles. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

The lack of public toilets is an another important issue to be flagged. There is only one functional toilet for public use in the entire station. A new toilet has been constructed recently for the passengers’ use (behind the suburban train ticket counter) near Platform 1. However, this facility which has two toilets each for men and women is yet to be opened.

Since it is a pay and use facility, the delay has been attributed to the identification of contractors and appointment of staff for maintenance. Two portable toilets had been provided on Platform 1, near the waiting area. These toilets have become defunct because of issues relating to overflowing and foul smell. In addition, there are no toilet facilities in platforms 2 and 3. The number of toilers is clearly insufficient for the footfall that the station sees on a daily basis.

Toilets for differently-abled passengers are also inadequate in number. There are currently only two, out of which one remained locked during the audit.

toilets for persons with disabilities remains locked
Toilets for differently-abled passengers remains locked most of the time. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

Even drinking water is not given much importance. While paid drinking water kiosks have been provided in all the platforms, none of the water coolers are functional. 

woman using water at the station
Drinking water facilities are not adequate. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

Read more: A citizens’ traffic plan for Perambur High Road

Lack of security and guidance at Perambur station

Commuters mentioned that the Railway Police Force (RPF) help desk is locked most of the time. Upon enquiry we were told that only one RPF officer has been deployed to take care of the entire station. Government Railway Police Station, which has been operating out of the building housing the advance reservation counters, also does not provide much assistance. Even in terms of guidance, passengers have no one to go to as there are no dedicated enquiry counters for passengers to check on arrival and departure of trains.

We also found that around 10 station masters have been assigned to manage the Perambur station as per records. Many of them have been redirected to manage other railway stations and there are no station masters available to attend to the passengers’ queries most of the time. In fact, even the station master’s cabin was found to be managed mostly by staff members who are responsible for making the announcements. 

There is also a serious lapse in the functioning of the display boards and announcement of arrival and departure of trains. On enquiry during our audit, we were told there is only one outsourced official to handle the announcements and display boards. This person works only on one shift and there are times where the operations staff are forced to manage the arrivals without any announcement during the later hours. In this era of digitization we are left wondering why the announcement and display boards cannot be managed remotely as this is a crucial need for passengers.

Parcel office, ATM and exit ramp key requirements

A space for construction of a Parcel Office has been allocated in the west end of the railway station near the parking area. The construction of the same is yet to be taken up as the final approval for the same is pending. There is an urgent need for the parcel office to be opened because this would help users book their parcels on the trains which pass through Perambur without going to Chennai Central.

A building which housed an ATM at the main entrance has been lying empty for several months. This can be put to good use by leasing out the space to one of the banks or postal department to set up an ATM machine.

In terms of eateries available, we are glad that food stalls have been provided in platforms 2, 3 and 4. It would have made good sense to provide a similar stall in platform 1 as well as it currently only has one stall.

The exit ramp from the Perambur Railway Station located at the eastern end of the tracks near Saraswathi Square on Perambur High Road North Side is causing a lot of inconvenience to the commuters on the adjoining road. We get to see several passengers entering or exiting the railway station from an illegal makeshift entrance made out of concrete blocks to climb the wall. It would be advisable to have this exit shifted to the extreme east which is closer to the Perambur Bus Terminus.

passengers exit through broken section of compound wall
Passengers exit through the side where the wall is broken. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

The overall quality of the trains and the services provided by the Railways has improved over the years, but more needs to be done as far as the railway stations and the basic amenities are concerned. Citizen participation in governance will help in building a robust infrastructure and also the delivery of quality services.

This audit is a step to ensure overall improvement in quality of infrastructure, basic amenities and services by including specific suggestions for positive change.

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