Data available with the Railway Protection Force (RPF) revealed that at least 139 ‘shortcut gaps’ in the fencing on the Churchgate-Virar section are responsible for maximum trespassing- related accidents on the Western line. Officials said the process to fill these gaps was underway and will take time.
So far, the RPF has already caught and penalised 8,582 trespassers and collected fine worth Rs30.88 lakh from the offenders. However, this has failed to deter commuters from crossing tracks. Last year, the RPF penalised 14,955 trespassers and collected Rs57.90 lakh in fines.
Alarmed by the growing number of fatalities, RPF officials inspected the entire suburban stretch and proposed several measures to curb trespassing. Officials discovered that these ‘man-made gaps’ in the fencing walls were mostly located near slums running along the tracks or areas that lacked foot over bridges (FOB), thus making it easier for the locals to crossover.
A similar survey was jointly undertaken by the RPF, the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the railway engineers about seven years ago, following which a proposal was submitted to build 22 FOBs at accident-prone spots on the suburban network. A few of these bridges were supposed to be built by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Officials claimed that despite following-up the issue for years now, the BMC is yet to begin work at a few of the locations falling under its jurisdiction. Of the 22 proposed FOBs, 13 are scheduled to open by the year-end, while deadline for three of the structures is 2017. The remaining six are stuck in various stages, with work on one — near Poisar nullah — being held up owing to encroachment on railway land, officials said.
Understanding the problem
During their survey, RPF personnel spoke to several commuters at various accident-prone spots to get a first-hand account as to why commuters risk their lives rather than using an FOB. “I personally inspected Jogeshwari station during peak hours and found that the only FOB took three times its original capacity. Fearing women-related offences and thefts, several preferred crossing the tracks below,” said Anand Vijay Jha, senior divisional security commissioner.
On the Central line, RPF officials identified 90 accident-prone spots that were created due to lack of infrastructure or holes in the fencing walls.