Wednesday , 2 December 2020

Reshaping the roofs to provide More free space at Railway Stations

At a time when land acquisition seems to be emerging as the major hurdle in providing transportation infrastructure, a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament and a leading architect, planner, civic activist and designer – both from Mumbai – have submitted a proposal to the Union Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi which, if accepted, could free over 155 acres (627300sqm) of land at railway stations. Javed Akhtar and P K Das (of P K Das & Associates) respectively have proposed that the sloping roofs of over 51 railway stations of Mumbai should be replaced with flat roofs which could then be used as green spaces that would house various public facilities.

Called ‘Roof Plazas’, these spaces will have multiple connectivity nodes with the neighbourhood and surrounding streets. They will be landscaped with ample greenery all over and will have food outlets, bank branches and rest rooms, and will be used as access points by passengers for moving from one platform to the other. They will also be the ingress and exit points for passengers coming inside or going out of the railway stations. Based on the idea of expanding open public spaces, the roof plazas will provide substantial open space, enable easy access to, and from, platforms and help commuter dispersal. Upgradation and facelift of the station buildings and the environment around them too forms a part of the plan.

Says P K Das,“This idea is a part of the movement for expanding public spaces. We have devised about 15 methods by which we can physically expand public spaces in Mumbai. The people-friendly or green railway station is one of those methods. Railways stations and the areas surrounding them are probably the worst urban conditions of our city. Congestion, lack of facilities and lack of planning for transportation links worsen the situation – both environmentally and physically. Plus, there is tremendous shortage of space around railway stations. The logic is very simple and the situation, ordinary. If we shift the load and balance it out over the ground floor and the roofs, the scenario will change completely – and for the better.”

Das says that since over five million people travel by trains each day in humiliating conditions, the question arises of granting them dignity – while reaching the railway stations, boarding trains and getting out from railway stations for going to their place of work or residence. It is not possible to expand spaces by knocking off buildings, taking over areas, clearing them and creating more open spaces physically. “Therefore, we have suggested the reclaiming of the roofs. If we convert the roofs over the railway stations as flat roofs and develop them as public plazas, public forums or public spaces with landscaping and facilities of rest rooms and other conveniences including ticketing booths, etc., we would be able to create large open spaces at the railway stations.”

Highlights of the proposal

  1. 51 stations will free up over 155 acres of space
  2. Many entry and exit points through elevators and staircases to be provided on the roofs
  3. Conveniences like drinking water, shoe-shine boys, food joints, banks outlets, post office outlets, rest rooms, newspaper stands, etc., to be provided in the roof plazas
  4. Lounges to be created with good greenery, lighting and cafes

The roofs, 300 to 500 metres long, are spread between four to five acres of land. Owing to their length and width, they provide a huge area for connections from various points and neighbourhood roads. When people will have various entry and exit points, the present single entry and exit points can be free of congestion. Also, the area outside the stations will not have traffic jam as then, the buses, cars and autos will not have to rush to that single point. “Dispersal, a fundamental aspect of any transportation and mobility principle, can then be so planned that it creates a more comfortable environment for the passengers. This dignified access to and exit from the railway stations will also help in saving fuel, energy and time, and will lead to more hygienic conditions on the platform,” says Das.

He adds, “These podiums or plazas will be landscaped with trees and will have good seating arrangement and lighting. They will become more of neighbourhood spaces – They could become places where people meet in the evenings if the area around is highly dense. Since there are peak hours of train journeys, these vast places could double up as lounges or vents or open spaces. The cost incurred will be nominal too. In our meeting with the Honourable Union Minister for Railways, we proved that if you construct only 3000-4000 sqft of space to be used as facilities like bank outlets, post office outlets, cafes or fast food joints at every station, it will fund the entire project of construction of RCC flat roofs with landscaping, with signage, with seating and with lighting.”

The proposal by Das, along with Rajya Sabha MP Javed Akhtar, was appreciated by the Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi. If cleared, one or two prototypical stations would be created initially. “The Honourable Minister was very excited about the idea of Dadar and Khar to be taken up as prototypes. Even the Railway General Manager was present in the meeting. Now, the process of follow-up begins and the campaign needs to build up. It is a very simple idea that can improve our conditions of infrastructure. Nothing works unless there is people’s pressure on the Government. Governments have too many things on their hands. It all depends on the pressure and public actions that enable faster decisions. So, we are hoping that would happen.”

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