Metro rail lifts, exits shut on purpose to save cash?

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Hyderabad: Are the Metro Rail authorities closing down few exits, foot over bridges and not operating elevators to save money at metro stations? Post the COVID-19 lockdown, it seems that metro amenities are failing in its main purpose of providing accessible transportation.

Regular users of the Hyderabad Metro Rail (HMR) have been complaining from the last weeks that the management, being run by L&T, is shutting down lifts and blocking entry/exit points, thus hindering easy access.  

A number of people off late have been tweeting to L&T/Hyderabad Metro Rail, questioning them on the peculiar manner in which metro stations are functioning. The Tarnaka metro station, for instance, has shut the foot bridge which is supposed to aid transporters to cross the road when traffic is unbearable. This was true of the Lakdikapul metro station as well.

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In essence, aside from transit metro stations like Ameerpet, most of the stations across the city are limiting easy access for passengers, which is not going down well with many. To make matters worse, shutting down lifts and escalators from the road to the concourse affects people suffering from disabilities, senior citizens and travelers with other health ailments. 

Closing the foot over bridge’s entrance into the station also poses a problem for people who wish to use the infrastructure to avoid traffic, especially during the rainy season. In fact, the traffic police in the city have time and again recommended people to use the metro stations to cross roads as well, to avoid accidents. 

Transport researcher GSR Chaitanya notes, “This problem while seemingly small actually is ableist. By shutting off lifts in some stations and limiting entry-exit points, the metro isn’t aiding people who are differently abled. People in wheelchairs cannot use the stairs. Lifts are also supposed to function to cater to the needs of senior citizens who cannot possibly climb stairs.”

An unnamed official at Tarnaka metro station cited the lockdown as an excuse to limit travellers’ access into the station while the Hyderabad Metro Rail’s twitter handle stated that government norms prevent them from opening all entrances fully. Another HMR official, while stating that L&T is responsible for managing the stations, said that the closures may be due to the lockdown.

Another issue which has come to surface vis-à-vis metro stations is that washrooms are shut on at least one side of the stations, where HMR authorities are seemingly cutting back on security personnel to save some money. 

In fact, according to a report from The Hindu, the Hyderabad Metro Rail has suffered a loss of Rs. 1, 766.74 crore during the lockdown from March to September 2020. The conjecture is that cutting down on metro workers and shutting down of lifts and escalators is one way of saving money.

With the L&T Hyderabad metro rail has reportedly blamed the government for this move and the government being irresponsive the situation remains unresolved.

What is however apparent is that the infrastructure built to aid the city’s inhabitants is currently not fulfilling its role