Dinkar Pandit, 45, from Oshiwara has been taking the local train to reach his Dadar office for the past 20 years. And he complains the situation at Andheri station has deteriorated drastically over the past few years.
“It takes at least 45 minutes to reach Oshiwara from Andheri station. It would take 25 minutes before,” said Pandit.”Walking towards the station is a nightmare because you have to dodge the traffic, fellow commuters as well as the hawkers,” he said.
Welcome to Andheri station, one of the major railway stations on the Western line. It connects places such as Marol, Sahar, Lokhandwala, Oshiwara and Yari Road. But access it from the east or the west, and you will be greeted by hawkers, unregulated traffic, illegal parking of autorickshaws and taxis as well as uneven roads. Though the Mumbai Metro’s Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar line has provided some relief, it is not frequented by many commuters, who still prefer the local train, especially during peak hours.
Transport expert Jagdeep Desai blames the illegal nexus between the railway administration, BMC officials, hawkers and autorickshaw drivers for the mess. “The commuters are the last priority for these people and they continue to suffer,” said Desai. He said just coming out of the railway station is a nightmare because there is unrestricted flow of traffic outside the station.
Juta Galli, which covers at least 150m outside the station, is inundated with hawkers. In the east, the hawkers have restricted the entry of autorickshaws, rendering the auto deck built two years ago defunct. On the eastern side, it is a double onslaught — unruly autorickshaws and taxis. In fact, taxi drivers just keep their vehicles parked for hours for the ‘right customer’, slowing down traffic further.
The skywalk has not been very helpful either.
Environmentalist Rishi Agarwal, who raises urban infrastructure issues, said the problem is not the resources, but faulty implementation. “We have a handful of hawkers and autorickshaw drivers putting lakhs of commuters at risk,” said Agarwal. “It is total chaos during peak hours because we see commuters getting hit by autorickshaws, getting into fights with them for refusing fares as well as hawkers stopping all movement. The commuters are left to fend for themselves,” said Agarwal. “The situation during the monsoon is the worst because commuters are seen jumping around trying to dodge the potholes,” he added.
For Vasai resident Jatin Ashra, who works for a multinational company at Marol, his day begins and ends with haggling with autorickshaw drivers. “A majority of the drivers refuse to come to Marol citing bad roads,” said Ashra.
Currently, Andheri station is undergoing expansion as the harbour line, which would end here will be extended to Goregaon. The railway platform is being shifted to the front, which will add to the commuter load at the station.
The major problems around Andheri station
1. Poor road access to station
Getting to the station is a challenging task for commuters from both the east and the west side. The access roads are a nightmare during the monsoon when dodging potholes becomes a daily occurrence. SV Road, which is the main arterial road, sees constant slow pedestrian traffic. Poor traffic management around the station on both sides only adds to the problem. A common sight: Commuters quarrelling with autorickshaw drivers, who refuse to ply short distances. The Metro pillars near SV Road add to the headache because they make it difficult to walk on the road.
2. Autorickshaw menace
The station road sees at least three lanes occupied by autorickshaws, which makes it difficult for buses and private vehicles to pass through. In the east at Sahar Road, the autorickshaws are sometimes seen stopping in the middle of the road outside the station and taxis are seen waiting for commuters for several hours near the footpaths. In the west, Juta Galli, which made it convenient for drivers to reach the station from SV Road, has been blocked because illegal shops have taken over the road.
3. Hawkers rule the roost
The vicinity of the station seems to have been taken over by hawkers who seem to be dictating terms, while the authorities look the other way. The hawkers in the west, who would occupy 1m of space, have now illegally extended this to 3m. Juta Galli, just outside the station, now has more than 200 shops. They have taken over the footpaths and even the major parts of the roads. All vehicles have been blocked from this road. In the east, the hawkers have encroached on railway land rendering the auto deck, which was constructed two years ago, defunct.
4. Pavements and Roads in bad shape
The western side of the station has terrible roads and pavements compared to the eastern side. The roads are uneven and the condition is pathetic during the monsoon. The condition of the foot overbridges is also bad. Footpaths seem to be almost non-existent because they have been taken over by hawkers. On the eastern side, commuters have to wade through the hawkers who have blocked all access to the station.
5. Poor public transport
Andheri west and east have depots that operate more than 30 bus routes daily. The frequency of buses is in decent, but their movement is slowed down by the chaos near the station as well as SV Road. During peak hours, public transport gets stuck and continuous honking and fights between bus and autorickshaw drivers are common. Currently, the buses take a left from SV Road and enter the depot near the station. Thus, movement of the buses in front of the station is in the anti-clockwise direction, adding to the congestion on the station road.
6. Arterial roads in a mess
The mess around the station leads to slowing down of traffic on arterial roads like SV Road in the west and Sahar Road in the east. The skywalks have not helped disperse the traffic.
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