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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Railway Porters ~ Coolie no. 1 .................. and porters at Prague airport

Prague  is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic.  Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava River, the city is home to about 1.24 million people.  Václav Havel Airport Prague,  formerly Prague Ruzyně International Airport is the international airport of Prague,  located 10 kilometres (6 mi) west  of the city.

For sure, you have observed them and perhaps have utilised their services too – as the train slowly chughs into the platform, they are everywhere – into the compartment, soliciting to service you – many fear bargaining with them !!  Coolie otherwise ‘Railway Porter’ is engaged to assist passengers at Railway stations handling their baggage.  One cannot ignore them – especially in long stations like New Delhi, Vijayawada, Chennai Central, people with many luggage having to walk on the platform, that too with only few minutes left for departure, need their services badly – the men in red shirt – ‘the railway porters’! – some movies have glorified them, some passengers have sorry tales to tell – yet, in many movies,  the youth coming from rural area landing in the city does the carrying of luggage as the first job !

Coolie No.1, a Telegu film   released in  1991 starring Venkatesh,  directed by K. Raghavendra Rao was a grand hit. It was  Tabu’s debut film.    Earlier in 1983, Coolie starring Amitabh Bachan as a railway coolie directed by Manmohan Desai was a big hit. 

In order to facilitate last mile connectivity to passengers and tourists, the IRCTC recently launched concierge services at New Delhi railway station.  Passengers now can book cab and porter at his destination station before the train arrives at that station through railways online 'concierge services'. The facility, which can be availed as a combo of both cab and porter or only cab services, is at present available at 22 stations, including Tirupati, Mumbai, New Delhi, Patna, Howrah and Mysore.  Travellers can also do online booking for wheel chair and stretcher services for elderly or sick people. The concierge services aimed at facilitating last-mile connectivity to passengers and tourists by arranging a taxi for dropping the passenger to his residence or hotel is one among the slew of initiatives taken by railways after BJP government took charge.

The life of a Railway porter is somewhat sordid.  They do not have assured income – many a times have to fight amongst themselves in getting a customer, the carrying capacity withers with age, the hard physical labour takes it toll; and as an article in The Hindu once observed, many of them limp, yes, the price of carrying workloads beyond their capacity !!  The wheeled bags have in someways robbed them of their livelihood -  if all the stations are modernised, having conveyor belts, escalators and moving platforms, people would require them less !! – the sophistication and facilities available is the prime reason, why you don’t see them at airports !!!  0r so, one thought – perhaps, Prague is different !!

Prague airport hires porters to carry passengers' luggage up 32 stairs at metro station... because £525million rail project didn't budget for an escalator !!!  This report in MailOnline states that  Prague’s international airport has been forced to hire porters to carry passengers’ luggage up 32 stairs because a multi-million pound construction project didn’t budget for an escalator.

A new metro line extension opened this week in the Czech capital – transporting travellers closer to the airport than ever before – but the point where passengers transfer from trains to buses doesn’t have a moving staircase.  That means porters are left to carry travellers’ heavy bags up and down the steep stairs at Nadrazi Veleslavin station, in north-west Prague, from 5am to 10pm every day, free of charge.  The construction project didn't budget for an escalator between the metro station and bus terminal and hence Prague station hires porters  !!!

One of the porters, Radek Mojzis, a 23-year-old student at Prague's School of Economics, told the Associated Press that he applied for the job because he wants ‘to stay fit and help the elderly.’  Without a direct train connection, the No 119 bus takes passengers on the final five miles between Vaclav Havel Airport and the nearest metro station. More than three million airport customers use the bus every year, choosing not to go by car or risk being ripped off by one of Prague’s notorious cab drivers.

The 20billion koruna (£527million, $787million) metro extension, planned by the Prague Public Transport Company, was supposed to transform Nadrazi Veleslavin station into a transport hub for the airport, with passengers transferring to trains, not buses.  Travellers can use a lift, but they are forced to cross a busy road to access the bus terminal.  Michal Rehorek, a spokesman for the airport, told MailOnline Travel that the public transit authority is responsible for building a new escalator.  He added: ‘Costs for [porters] are in tens of thousands of Czech crowns per month but for Prague Airport it is primarily an investment into the comfort and quality of service rather than cost only.’

Officials are now considering adding an escalator while it remains unclear when the train project will be completed.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

15th Apr 2015.

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