Western Railway seems to have built for itself a white elephant in glass.
Over two-and-a-half years after covering the ground-plus-seven floors of the Churchgate administrative building with almost 16,000 square feet of glass, Western Railway (WR) officials are literally feeling the heat.
The 1,200-odd employees working inside the building have been complaining about how the glass panels have stopped the cross-ventilation of air for which this 1956-built structure was known. But the authorities seem to have reached a dead end as they scramble for a solution.
One idea that has been floated is to remove 40 to 60 window glass panels to restore cross-ventilation. The WR’s construction department is studying whether blowers or heavy-duty exhaust fans can be placed to bring back the airiness. But that will come for a price: the project had cost around Rs4.85 crore, and removal of these glass panels and setting up of blowers can cost anything between Rs10 lakh and Rs20 lakh.
For many within the railways, the project seemed ill-planned from the beginning. According to some officials, the move was hasty which got conceived in the end of 2010 and got completed by the start of 2011, with RN Verma as the general manager.
Initially designed to replicate the intricate track-crossings of a railway yard on the glass, the plan had to be modified with the engineers realising that certain portion had to be kept free of glass in order to cool the building. “The change from the ‘yard on glass’ model to the current one robbed the plan of its aesthetics.
Now, it is just a mistake we are trying to rectify. The problem is that with a length of 50 metres and width of 30 metres, this building has huge floor plates and getting a central air-conditioning system won’t be easy,” said a senior WR official.
Initially the WR officials had boasted about having a railway office at par with those found in developed countries, but the mood got changed after the employees started complaining of heat and lack of ventilation.
Efforts to address the problem turned futile after the Railway Board shelved the Rs14-crore plan of central air-conditioning for the building. The plan by the then general manager Kul Bhushan in mid-2011 was supposed to have been added in the Pink Book the official book enlisting works sanctioned for a particular year.
But, the prohibitive cost made the ministry to rethink. “A Rs14-crore project for just one building was impossible when the total amount given for all of WR during the year 2012-13 in the Pink Book was around Rs63 crore,” said an official.
WR chief spokesperson Sharat Chandrayan said mitigating measures were being worked upon, though nothing had been finalised as yet.