Heritage railway stations neglected, vandalised but authorities look away
Published: Saturday, Dec 11, 2010, 3:01 IST dna
The city’s heritage railway stations are being vandalised and abused, but their keepers continue to turn a blind eye to the state they are in.
The city has five listed railway heritage structures: Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), Western Railway (WR) headquarters building opposite Churchgate station, and Byculla, Reay Road and Bandra stations. While CST is a Unesco-listed World Heritage Site, the WR headquarters building has also managed to enter its tentative list. The other three are unique for their architecture and importance in the city’s railway history.
CST is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture, blended with themes deriving from Indian traditional architecture. The site is today surrounded by hawkers with no protection in the form of any buffer zone. Some of them have even hammered nails into this iconic building to put up their wares for display.
Railway officials say that the building is used by lakhs of commuters daily and monitoring such huge crowds is difficult. CR has taken up conservation and restoration of the monument worth Rs16 crore in two phases. “We conduct regular drives against hawkers and beggars,” CR spokesperson Ashok Singh said.
Tasneem Mehta, eminent conservationist and chairperson of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach), said that one of Unesco’s mandatory requirements is the establishment of a monitoring committee with city leaders and experts. The railways have failed to constitute such a committee.
The WR headquarters building is less abused since it has restricted public access. But conservationists blame WR for applying paint on the building and damaging the station’s original look. “Paint does not allow stone to breathe and sets in damage,” a conservation architect said.
Restoration of Bandra’s old heritage structure has just been completed..