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   A lot of people are fascinated by trains..... (September 4, 1996)

A lot of people are fascinated by trains. I am more interested in train stations. The other evening, I was watching Mark Tully's train journey, for the BBC, from Karachi to the Kyber Pass. They showed Quetta, Lahore, Rawalpindi (Islamabad has no station, no train comes thre, it is too modern for that), Peshawar. Most of them looked like Indian sations on the Northern Railway. And that, I suppose, was to be expected, they were built by the same people in the same area.

Most Indian stations are built on a grand scale. It is a pity they are bot kept properly. Instead of changing the names of stations, the authorities should concentrate on maintaing them. But the administratice wing of VT, as distinct form the main concourse, where trains and passengers arrive and depart, is well kept. The stones clean, the brass fittings gleaming with polish, flower pots in corridors, carpets and old maps and photographs of the city in high-ceilinged offices. That is beaucse a succession of the Central Railway's general managers have cared for and taken pride in their working area.

The Western Railway's headquarters at Churchgate are also well kept, from the outside at least but also to a great degree from inside. Architecturally it is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, and, when illuminated, as if it these evenings, it is a thing of joy.

In constrast, Churchgate station is one of the ugliest buildings in the city, if not the uliest. And attempts to beautify it have made it worse. The old station, which was brought down somewhere in the Ď50s perhaps ten years later, was not much better, but it had character. Of course, it could nto be kept, it was too inadequate for the growing traffic. But even in the new building no planning has been done to enlarge it with the passage of time. We are stuck with it.

Churchgate is not the main terminus, that's Bombay Central. Everything pales when put against VT, but on its own it is a bicely functional building, set in iots own garden. It is high, airy, and, when you enter it, it given you the sense of going away somewhere, which is the essence of a railway station.

I understand that they are remodelling, though not reconstructing, the two Dadar stations. Which should have been done long back. For one thing, the stations of the two railways shoudl be housed in one single building, requiring the minimum of movement by passengers for changing trains. Also, to a large extent, this business of changing trains should be stopped by criss-crossing of the two railways.

There are many things that may be done to improve our statiuons, and fortunately, we have got a railway minister of unbounded enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm is for all the wrong things.

 
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