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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Stampede on Mumbai’s footbridge kills 22: How safe are overbridges in Delhi?

Safety review has been ordered of the bridges at all Delhi railway stations. Those on the roads are relatively safer because most Delhi residents prefer jaywalking.

delhi Updated: Sep 30, 2017 08:01 IST
Prawesh Lama
Prawesh Lama
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Foot overbridge at Jungpura in New Delhi.
Foot overbridge at Jungpura in New Delhi.(HT File Photo)

Within hours of a stampede at a Mumbai railway station that left 22 dead and 35 others injured, officers at the Delhi Division of Northern Railways hurriedly left their offices to inspect the foot overbridges (FOBs) and issued an order stating that there will be no change of platforms at the last minute for arriving trains.

The Delhi Division of Northern Railways has around 250 foot overbridges at its 213 railway stations. At New Delhi Railway Station, at least 4 lakh passengers use the foot overbridges every day. In November 2004, five women had died in a stampede on Platform 3 at the New Delhi Railway Station. On the day of the incident, there was heavy rush of passengers because of Chhath that week. Railway stations across Delhi are busiest during Chhath when the number of passengers can cross over 6 lakh.

Delhi division regional manager RN Singh inspected the three FOBs at the New Delhi Railway Station. Singh said the bridges at Old Delhi Railway Station would be inspected on Saturday. “An order has been issued not to make any last minute announcement for platform change. It always causes panic. People run from one platform to another leading to chaos. Apart from this, personnel from Railway Protection Force will be posted at the bridges. Instructions have been issued to them to ensure that if there overcrowding at the bridge, they should stop movement temporarily.”

In May 2010, a last-minute platform change announcement at the New Delhi Railway Station led to a stampede resulting in the death of two passengers.

During the festive season, footfall at all railway stations in Delhi increases. Railway officers said they are taking no chances during this festive season and are carefully regulating crowd movement. They said that two lanes have been made on some FOBs to prevent crowding and stampedes. The footfall at stations has already increased this week because of Dusshera. Railway officers expect the numbers to further increase because of Diwali and Chaath in mid-October.

“The bridges in mega terminals such as New Delhi, Old Delhi and Nizamuddin are being monitored. At Anand Vihar, there is not a bridge but a subway. There are RPF personnel at every bridge. There is no reason to worry,” said Singh.

Bridges on roads likely safer

The bridges at railway stations may need to be monitored, but those on the roads are relatively safer because most Delhi residents prefer jaywalking. This is also one of the main reasons for road accident deaths, say traffic officials. The two most death-prone areas on the Ring Road — ISBT Kashmere Gate and Majnu Ka Tila — report maximum deaths because the subways and FOBs there are hardly used, a study by Delhi Traffic Police showed last year. Delhi has 73 FOBs across the city and the government plans to construct 60 more. Most of them will have escalator and lifts to encourage people to use the facility.

S Velmurugan, principal scientist, Central Road Research Institute, said, “The FOBs not being used is also a reason to worry because then the authorities also have the tendency to ignore its maintenance.”

He said that the authorities should place higher dividers on roads so people are forced to use the FOBs. Also, there should be safety audit of FOBs that are more than 50 years old, especially those in Old Delhi, he said.

First Published: Sep 30, 2017 07:54 IST