How Indian railways is making train travel more accessible for the disabled and the elderly

By Dinesh Kotha
November 20, 2022, Updated on : Sun Nov 20 2022 09:51:36 GMT+0000
How Indian railways is making train travel more accessible for the disabled and the elderly
Senior citizens and the differently-abled encounter plenty of difficulties while commuting by trains. This has propelled the railway authorities to offer amenities for hassle-free travel experiences of the venerable.
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From steam trains to superfast express, Indian Railways has covered 177 glorious years of serving the commons. Currently, the network is the fourth largest railway system in the world, with 7,325 stations across the four corners of the country.


Keeping in mind the requirements of the “Divyangjans”, the Ministry of Railways launched the ‘Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan’ (Accessible India Campaign) in 2015 to provide them with convenient and barrier-free transportation across the railway network.

Railways


Differently-abled and elderly citizens encounter plenty of difficulties while boarding trains, travelling long distances, and disembarking. Crossing footbridges in stations with multiple platforms need assistance, and getting on trains holding the sidebars has been a challenge. In many cases, platforms are at lower levels and require stepping up the footboards of equal sizes.


Elderly passengers must watch their footing and often struggle to come down the trains with luggage. Moreover, disabled individuals need special lavatory facilities to support long journeys and demand prominent displays for passenger assistance information across premier stations.


Such passenger needs have propelled the railway authorities to offer the following amenities for hassle-free travel experiences of the venerable.

Wheelchairs and battery-operated vehicles

Senior citizens and Divyangjans can avail of wheelchair facilities to escort them to and from the trains for free-of-cost. Around 7,000 wheelchairs at over 5,400 railway stations assist the needy in travelling.


Provisions of one wheelchair per platform in all leading stations may spare the community the hassle of walking long lengths. Special attendants and porters can be hired or pre-fixed at nominal costs to help the disabled while commuting. Passengers can also book wheelchair-cum-porter services free of charge through NGOs, charitable trusts, and PSUs under the 'Yatri Mitra Sewa' scheme.


Over 2,586 stations have wheelchair-friendly ramps to support easy movements. Divyangjans and elderly citizens can utilise Battery Operated Vehicles (BOVs) at major stations either free or on a chargeable basis under the Railways' Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).


Specially designed coaches, also known as SLRD coaches, with wheelchair-friendly wider entrance doors and wider aisles are earmarked exclusively for people with disabilities.

Platform and in-train facilities

Almost all mail and express trains have SLRD coaches with modified toilets and four berths, the lower two berths for differently-abled passengers and two upper berths for attendants. Train Ticket Examiners (TTEs) can allot any vacant lower berths to senior citizens and disabled passengers with valid proof of age and prescribed certifications.


While booking tickets through the computerised Passenger Reservation System (PRS), lower berths are automatically allotted to Senior Citizens and Persons with Disabilities (PwD), subject to availability, even if no choice is given.


The community enjoys four to five lower berths per coach each in 3AC and 3-4 lower berths per coach in 2AC classes, depending on the number of coaches in the train. Moreover, all zonal railways have earmarked a minimum of seven seats for senior citizens in the first and last second-class compartments in local trains.


More than 1,090 escalators operate at 339 stations with a daily footfall of 25,000, and 981 Lifts are functional across 400 stations as of August 2022. Over 1,465 stations across the country have non-slippery walkways from parking lots to station buildings, while 3,897 stations have drinking water or lavatory facilities for specially-abled travellers.

Reservation and navigation

People with physical disabilities, mental incoherence, visual, hearing, or speech impairments enjoy around 50-75% concession in ticket fares. Before the pandemic, women aged 58+ could avail 50% discount, while male passengers aged 60+ enjoyed a 40% concession on tickets of all classes.


However, such privileges stand withdrawn post-pandemic and await reinstatement. Various PRS centres provide exclusive counters for attending reservation requests from elderly and disabled populations. Moreover, 1,474 stations have prominent sign-ages with Braille Navigation Maps to help visually-impaired commuters and educate them about the various facilities available.


The bottom line

Railways are, by far, the most preferred mode of transportation in India for short and long journeys. Trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Jan Shatabdi, and Duronto Expresses provide premium facilities to passengers for a delightful travel experience. Conversely, the Garib Rath Express offers air-conditioned long-distance travel to economically challenged people at subsidies.


The Ministry of Railways has made trains accessible to elderly and disabled populations over the years. With wheelchairs, elevators, specially-designed lavatories, navigation signages and reservation assistance, the venerable community can enjoy comfortable and memorable trips through tunnels and terrains.


Edited by Megha Reddy

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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