D.N.I.S. News Network – Indian Railways has announced its plan of adding a reserved wheelchair compartment to all mail express trains by the end of this financial year. It will then follow this up with an air-conditioned compartment in all such trains in the next four years. Thereafter, the service would be expanded to all Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains as well.
These special compartments have two lower berths for wheelchair users, two upper berths for their attendants and an accessible toilet and adequate space for movement and parking of wheelchairs. Moreover, handrails are provided at specific points and locking systems exist to prevent wheelchairs from swaying while the train is in movement. The compartments would be put at the end, right next to the guard’s coach, as this would enable the guard to ensure that no wheelchair user is entraining or detraining when the train is moving.
The Indian Railways’ Executive Director (Carriages) Neeraj Kumar has stated that the production of the compartments for wheelchair users had started in 2001 and by March 31 this year 1,159 such compartments had been made. With 325 more such compartments expected to be manufactured in 2006-07, the number would increase to over 1,400. From April 1, 2007, Indian Railways would start manufacturing all these compartments as air-conditioned ones and this would go on for the next four years. Then, these air-conditioned compartments would also be attached to these mail express trains.
In addition, these compartments would be made reserved, thus enabling wheelchair users to make advance reservations. But if there are no takers, after preparation of the charts, they would be thrown open to the general public.
If this grand plan materialises, it will ensure that wheelchair users who have, all these years had a hard time while travelling, will now be able to travel in comfort.
In another positive development, all railway stations in Orissa are to be provided with wheelchairs within four months. This announcement was made at the Fourth Divisional Rail Users’ Consultative Committee meeting held at Puri recently.