There cannot be any argument over the fact that the Bhubaneswar Railway station and its adjoining area is the place which sees the maximum footfall in the capital city. As a result , daily huge number of vehicles come in and go out .
While there is not much confusion in two wheeler parking, but car parking is tricky business. There are two sides to the station—the main one from Janpath/Master Canteen side and the other side connecting to Cuttack Road. On the main side , the car parking is again demarcated into two zones—the right and the left. The right side towards the RMS office is actually a parking meant for Govt cars. All Govt cars are parked free of cost at this side. The left side towards the Food plaza entrance is meant for private parking.
One Pradeep Mohanty, an actor by profession, who is into serials and other short films, holds the tender to the Parking lot on the main side since the last three years. A flat Rs 15 is the parking fees. According to Mohanty, nothing is charged for just an immediate drop-down or pick-up i.e if the car is not halting, but in reality it is far from the truth. The agent at the booth charges any vehicle that comes in for any length of time. The right side may be meant for Govt parking, but private vehicles are also accommodated at peak hours and specially when there are not so many Govt vehicles filling up the whole parking space. But these private vehicles are also duly charged. The right side parking actually ends into a lane that moves to Ashok Nagar through the Railway Officers Guest House. During peak hours vehicles move in the right side parking to see no space available. Finding no parking space, these cars move hence into the lane and park their vehicles there, which is way beyond the limits of the parking lot. However, while moving out they are also charged parking fees.
There are often squabbles between drivers and the parking agents over this. The approach to the left side private parking is not only very congested but the road condition is also very poor. Hence many drivers, particularly those who come for immediate drop-down or pick-up, park their vehicles way beyond the parking area, somewhere near the Master Canteen and does the rest on foot to avoid all these hassles.
The ONI contacted Rail officials like the Assistant Station Master and the Chief Commercial Inspector at the Railway Station and the Chief Transportation Planning Manager(CTPM) at the Rail Bhawan , the ECoR Hq’s in Bhubaneswar . But none of them gave their ears to these germane problems, forget thinking of devising any ideas to solve the same. They all seemed ill at ease and happy to let things remain and pass through the whims and diktat of the private tender without any accountability, check or redressal from the side of the Rail. The private tender owner gives a monthly sum to the Rail as retainership apart from the initial Fixed deposit. No party , neither the Rail nor the owner of the tender, is ready to spill out the exact percentage that goes monthly to the Rail or for that matter the amount of the onetime Fixed deposit that is in the kitty of the Rail. The Rail blatantly turns a blind eye to all the parking problems at the Railway station as long as it is getting the monthly deposit.
The study of the old side of the station adjacent to Platform four throws up another story that compounds the problem. Although many private vehicles move in and out from this side of the station , but actually there has had been no parking here ever in the conventional sense of the term. This side is very cramped for space and a small parking lot caters to private taxi owners and a similar one is meant for auto rickshaws. In fact around 50 Taxi owners and 200 auto rickshaws have been plying their trade on this side for almost three decades. Mostly all important Puri and South bound trains arrive on this side of the station and so there is a regular customer base for them.
The private cars use to manage in this small Taxi stand or else park in the narrow lane that goes towards the Rail quarters through the Rail Shramik Union office. Obviously there is no parking tender for this side and hence parking of private vehicles also involves no money. It all just boils down to sheer space and the luck of getting it or the art of grabbing it. On peak hours, the jamboree and the muddle of cars, taxis and autos all trying to out-maneuver each other is a sight to behold and a mind boggling experience if you are actually behind the wheels. But with the massive expansion of the Railway station on the anvil that involves coming up of one more track and platform in the old end, the Taxi and the auto drivers have not only been given the marching orders but the demolition work of the stand is already underway.
This has made all hell to break loose on this side with Taxi and auto drivers crying foul and wanting proper rehabilitation and provision of new parking space before they move out from here. But when the ONI met the CTPM, he made it amply clear that with paucity of space the Rail has virtually nothing to offer to these people. As and when this parking gets dissolved, in effect private cars will also cease to get benefit of using this side. It will ,in effect , also put huge pressure on the main side till the time a proposed basement parking, that is part of the new Station development and expansion plan, comes up in future.