Friday, January 15, 2010

Group wants Batu Caves funicular train back on track

Friday January 15, 2010

THAIPUSAM will be celebrated on Jan 30 but the funicular train service at Batu Caves, which was halted more than 20 years ago, is still not up.

The train service, which carries devotees, especially those with physical diabilities, up to the temple at the peak, is a vital facility for the religious establishment that is also a major tourist destination in the country.

Not in use: Murugeswaran (left) and other members of the Damai Disabled Persons Association pointing to the track next to the stairway at Batu Caves.

The issue was brought up again by the Damai Disabled Persons Association of Selangor and Wilayah Persekutuan recently.

Association president V. Murugeswaran said the long-standing problem needed to be addressed soon.

“I am sure there are foreigners as well as locals who want to offer their prayers at this temple. Without the train, it is difficult to go up there for people like us,” he said.

Murugeswaran said former Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu had said in 2007 that the ministry was told to conduct a study on the old cable railway tracks next to the staircase by the Tourism Ministry.

The study was on the soil condition and to determine whether they needed to build new tracks.

“However, nothing transpired after that and many Thaipusams have come and gone.

“There are major renovations going on in this area, including road work, but there is no news about the promised train track,” said Murugeswaran, adding that the last two times that he went up to the temple, he was carried by a few volunteers, which in itself was a dangerous task.

Apart from the train, the toilets at Batu Caves are also not easily accesible to the disabled, especially those in wheelchairs.

Murugeswaran said the toilets were on higher ground and the pathway steep and slippery.

“The cubicles are also so small that it is impossible for wheelchairs to go in. All religious places should be made to accommodate disabled people,” he said.

When contacted, Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam chairman R. Nadarajah said Batu Caves was now undergoing RM3.1mil upgrading work.

He said he would bring the train matter up to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak during Thaipusam.

“The Government is aware of it and I guess we just have to wait for the next budget for the train,” he said.

On the inaccesible toilets for the disabled, Nadarajah said he would look into the matter.