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Platforms at Coimbatore railway station will now get lifts

People with disabilities often find it difficult to travel independently due to lack of disabled-friendly transport facilities. This includes even airports and railway stations which still remain inaccessible in most parts of India. The Coimbatore Railway Station has come in for some criticism for not being disabled-friendly and accessible for a while now. So, it's good to see authorities taking steps to fix this.

Platforms 1 and 2 of Coimbatore Junction will soon get lifts so that moving around in the station can be made easier for people with disabilities. According to reports, construction work is scheduled to finish by May end and the lifts will start functioning by June.

Currently, the escalators installed in the station are mostly switched off. Hence, people are forced to take steps. For a wheelchair, using steps is impossible. In spite of repeated requests, authorities have not speeded up the process of making the station accessible.

Swarnalatha J, founder, Swarga Foundation, an NGO based in Coimbatore, has been working closely with Coimbatore Junction authorities to ensure full accessibility for people with disabilities inside the station premises. Swarnalatha who is also a member of the Divisional Railway User's Consultative Committee (DURCC) says that it is high time that government ensures accessibility at public places.

Due to our constant efforts, elevators on platform 3 and 4 are now functioning. But still, we have a long way to go when it comes to accessibility. Work for construction of elevators in platform 1 and 2 is currently going on and we appreciate efforts taken by the authorities. They even have to look into the parking facilities provided for people with disabilities outside railway stations. Most of the times, other people come and park their vehicles mainly because there is no one to keep a check. - Swarnalatha J, Founder, Swarga Foundation

Materials required for building lift have arrived and engineers have started work but there are some niggling issues.

"Various NGOs have sponsored at least 22 wheelchairs to Coimbatore station. But I have not even seen even one of them being used by a passenger. There are lot of discrepancies that need to be worked on. We have asked for a meeting with higher officials which is scheduled to happen very soon, says Swarnalatha.

Wheelchair users, who frequently travel from Coimbatore Junction, are extremely happy that the station is taking baby steps towards accessibility.

"Recently, they introduced lifts in platforms 3 and 4 and it was a great blessing for us. Earlier, we needed someone to help us to move around in the station. With platform 1 and 2 going to have exclusive lifts, things are going to get better. Maybe we can travel independently very soon, says M Mukundan, a wheelchair user from Coimbatore.

If this is done well, it will mean major relief for millions of passengers. The Coimbatore Junction is one of the most important railway stations in South India as it connects trains between Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

ALSO READ: Swarga Foundation workshop at Coimbatore airport builds sensitivity towards needs of disabled travelers

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