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Army steps into ease rail commuters’ woes in Mumbai 

On the BJP-led government’s third anniversary, CM Devendra Fadanvis pulled out this surprise in the presence of Union railway minister Piyush Goyal and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman

mumbai Updated: Nov 01, 2017 00:35 IST
Kailash Korde
Kailash Korde
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Maharashtra,Elphinstone Road stampede
BJP’s city unit chief Ashish Shelar, Union railway minister Piyush Goyal, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis at Elphinstone Road station on Tuesday.(Bhushan Koyande/HT)

By end of January 2018, commute at the congested Parel and Elphinstone Road stations, which witnessed 23 deaths on September 29, will be easier for lakhs of passengers. The Indian Army will build a new alternate Foot Over Bridge (FOB) at the station to ease the pressure on existing common FOB.

On the BJP-led government’s third anniversary, CM Devendra Fadanvis pulled out this surprise in the presence of Union railway minister Piyush Goyal and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who along with him carried out a review of the station on Tuesday.

Fadnavis said the Indian army will construct two more FOBs at Currey Road and Ambivli stations by January 31, 2018. “This is the first such incident in the country’s history, in which such work will be done by the Army that always does extraordinary work in case of emergencies,” he said.These bridges will serve as temporary respite - up to a couple of years - until railways undertakes upgradation of the concerned bridges.

He also gave credit for getting the defence ministry in the loop to BJP’s city unit chief Ashish Shelar, who proposed it to the railway minister and defence minister first on October 6. Sitharaman said she was grateful to the Army for accepting their role in nation building.“This is probably the first time we have asked the Army to come in to build what could otherwise be called civil work, but Elphinstone tragedy was so big that a call was taken to cooperate, seeing urgency of the matter,”she said.

The move, however, drew heavy criticism from political leaders across the nation. MP Milind Deora tweeted , “Army building foot over bridges dilutes its role and purpose and sets the wrong precedent. Overhaul Mumbai’s rail infra on a war footing instead.”

Later on railway authorities defended the move .“The role of the Indian Armed Forces is not confined to keeping a vigil on the highest battle ground of the world, Siachen, and fighting cross-border terrorism, but it also extends to helping its countrymen in distress and during crisis situations,” said a statement issued by the CR public relations department.

Terming Elphinstone road tragedy as ‘sad’, Goyal counted the immediate steps taken by the railway authorities following the Elphinstone road incident. “We have decided to utilise military precision to work the bridges. These three bridges have been identified as they record higher footfall.” Goyal said.

The railway officials said the landing of the alternate FOB will be near the flower market. They also said the involvement of Indian Army will cut time required to build FOB. “Railways would have to go through a tendering process and the construction process would take up to 8 months. The army can readily deal with the construction,” said SunilUdasi, Chief Public Relation Officer, CR.

Bridges from Rajastan, Punjab to be used

The Indian Army Corps of Engineers (IACOE) will use three precast sets of bridges, which will arrive from Jaisalmer and Jalandhar, to build a new 80-metre-long foot over bridge (FOB) at Elphinstone Road station.

Of these, one bridge will be brought from Jaisalmer and the other two will come from Jalandhar. Each bridge, known as Bailey bridge, the kind that has been in use since the First World
War, will be around 110 feet in length.

This new but temporary FOB will provide an additional entry/exit option to the overcrowded Parel station on the north side, bringing the much-needed relief to passengers, who every day face stampede-like situation on south-end staircase.

These bridges are part of a temporary solution for pedestrian safety until the railways completes work on it proposed 12-meter-wide FOB, which will be between the existing and new defence FOB.

A defence official said they will build the FOB wherever the railway authorities want it, but the suitable location is north end of the lane at Elphinstone Road station ahead of the power station.

The Union railway minister Piyush Goyal and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday also said the Indian Army will build FOBs at Currey Road and Ambivli stations, which face similar congestion and where there is an urgent need of FOB for pedestrian safety.

However, defence sources told HT that so far they had just received directives about building FOB at Elphinstone Road station, but once they receive official communication, the work at other two sites will also be taken up. They, however, carried out primary inspection of the spots with railway officials.

Meanwhile, sources said the defence ministry will charge Indian Railways for the bridge they will construct. Railway officials here said they have
not yet received any formal communication on the issue of funding of the bridge from the railway ministry.

The officer also said they could have built new FOBs within 5 to 6 days, but the task is challenging in the city because of poor quality of soil, limited hours for work, heavy rail traffic, high voltage overhead wires and movement of equipment.

“The condition of the soil at the site is not good. The FOB can be constructed within three days but we have approached several of our internal agencies for the construction of a temporary FOB,” said a defence official.

Sources said before assembling the bridge sets, they will have to do few feet deep piling for better stability of the temporary FOB. The main reason of piling is the poor soil and long span of the bridge connecting Parel station.

The Pune-based wing of Indian Railway Corps of Engineers is coordinating with the Army for the construction of these FOBs. IACOE provide mobility to forces by constructing bridges, tracks and helipads, during wars. It also builds bridges during emergencies like natural calamities.

First Published: Nov 01, 2017 00:35 IST