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New handles lower the bar

Commuters in Western line local trains are quite literally flying off the handle. The grip on the transparent plastic grab handles installed in suburban trains is proving to be elusive, reports Rajendra Aklekar.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2009 01:13 IST
Rajendra Aklekar

Commuters in Western line local trains are quite literally flying off the handle. The grip on the transparent plastic grab handles installed in suburban trains is proving to be elusive, as Vinay Raut, a commuter who lost balance and almost fell off the train, found to his dismay.

Vasai resident Raut has filed a Right to Information (RTI) petition seeking an explanation from Western Railway (WR) officials on who is responsible for the faulty handles and if they would compensate passengers injured as a result.

Raut, who is in his forties and works in a firm in Churchgate, was travelling in coach number 904-A of a local on November 25 from Vasai to Churchgate, which left Vasai at 8.44 am.

“I noticed that the metal hand grabs were removed and the new plastic handles introduced with advertisements on them,” Raut said.

“It was very crowded and when I tried to grab one of the hand rails, it broke from the joint. I nearly fell on the floor of the coach. The handle had come out of the bracket from its belt.”

Other passengers helped him back to his feet.

The WR installed plastic grab handles in suburban trains to get advertisement revenue, as ads can be slipped on these transparent handles.

Hindustan Times had reported this on December 16 (WR puts up plastic grab handles in trains). Commuters had then said they were afraid that the handles would not be able to sustain the extreme load of passengers during rush hours.

“Will the railways take responsibility if some passenger gets injured due to these handles? I also want to know who is responsible to ensure that these newly-fitted hand rails are strong enough to take the load? What is the cost and tender conditions for them?” Raut said, adding that the decision to install them was akin to playing with the lives of lakhs of commuters.

“Though the railways claim that these new plastic hand rails are strong enough, they are proving to be dangerous for commuters,” said Chinmay Gavankar, a WR commuter and senior business manager in a software firm. “The railways have acted irresponsibly.”

“The new handles with advertisements are just installed in one train for trials. They cannot break off easily as there is a metal sheet that supports them and they have been firmly installed,” WR Mumbai’s top boss, divisional railway manager C.P. Sharma said.

When informed about the handles breaking easily, he said he had not come across any such complaint.