Heeding a PMO directive, Indian Railways has changed its earlier decision to provide escalators at a large number of stations. These will now only be provided at stations with minimum footfall of 100,000 passengers per day instead of 25,000 as previously envisaged.
With this, not many new stations would be eligible for escalators as all major stations already have the facility.
"We are reviewing the requirements as per the latest guidelines and accordingly new escalators would be installed," a senior Railway Ministry official told IANS.
Aiming to provide better amenities, the Railways had earlier announced the installation of about 2,500 escalators across the country to facilitate smooth movement of passengers, including old and physically-challenged people.
In fact, to install the escalators, Railways had revised the then criteria for making urban and suburban stations eligible for the facility from an earnings basis to footfalls.
An escalator costs about Rs 1 crore and the Railways was expecting a cost reduction due to economies of scale in the massive installation.
According to the earlier policy, stations with 25,000 footfalls or more were selected for such installations. Earlier, those stations that had annual revenue ranging between Rs 8 crore and Rs 60 crore were eligible for the facility.
However, a review meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April did not find the idea of large-scale installation of escalators fruitful and favoured the facility only at the busiest major stations.
In superseding its earlier order, the Railways last week started the new norm.
Currently, all major stations with 100,000 footfalls are more or less equipped with escalators; so the new policy would not result in any proliferation of the facility in the rail network, the official said.
However, the changed guidelines have made a few exemptions by allowing installation of escalators even if the latest criteria is not met.
These include announcements made by the Prime Minister or the Railway Minister for the facility at any station, or if a Parliamentary Committee or elected representative makes a specific request, the installation would then take place.
Exemptions can also be made for installations at stations in state capitals or at the zonal level.
(Arun Kumar Das is a senior Delhi-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at email@example.com)