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One month after Elphinstone Road station stampede, is Mumbai’s lifeline still a threat?

Mumbaiites still feel unsafe, wonder whether the Railway’s enthusiasm will continue after a few months

mumbai Updated: Oct 29, 2017 00:34 IST
Aroosa Ahmed
Aroosa Ahmed
Hindustan Times
Elphinstone Road station stampede,Mumbai commute,Mumbai stampede
Police man the Elphinstone Road foot overbridge.(Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

A month after the stampede on the Elphinstone Road station foot overbridge (FOB), passengers and associations are still worried about their daily commute on Mumbai’s suburban train network.

After 23 people were killed in the September 29 stampede, railway officials posted police personnel to manage the crowds at busy platforms, evicted hawkers from stations and started speeding up infrastructure projects on suburban network. However, commuters said these were just knee-jerk reactions.

They said they wondered whether the Railway’s enthusiasm will continue after a few months as there is no system in place to ensure that such incidents do not recur.

They said that, for example, the Railway administration did not take cognisance of their complaints about daily overcrowding at the Elphinstone Road FOB till the stampede.

Despite the government railway police’s constant vigilance, CCTV cameras at a majority of stations and frequent complaints about overcrowding at Kurla, Parel, Ghatkopar, Virar and Nallasopara, the authorities failed to notice the increasing crowds at platforms and FOBs.

Following the stampede, the Railways planned to a new FOB connecting Elphinstone Road and Parel stations, sped up work on the Parel terminus, started building FOBs at other crowded stations and initiated the remodelling of Kalyan yard. There are now announcements at CR and WR stations to alert commuters about crowds at a particular FOB.

Railway officials have been working with civic officials to clear a 150-metre-radius around the stations, demarcating them as ‘no-hawking zones’ to ensure that the stations’ entry and exit points are not cluttered.

“The railway police are active only during the peak hours, after which they disappear from the FOBs. Hawkers only stay away when police are patrolling the areas. Till when can such a situation continue?” asked Kavita Iyer, a Goregaon resident.

Rail Yatri Parishad, a commuters’ association, said the railway authorities are still ignoring many crucial stations. “There is no guarantee that the Railways will keep tackling issues months from now. They are not focusing on the core situation and are only interested in hawkers. The FOB at Ambernath station is always crowded, but the authorities are yet to take cognisance of this,” said Subhash Gupta, president, Rail Yatri Parishad.

Building more FOBs and implementing the station area traffic improvement scheme (SATIS) will help tackle the problems of overcrowding at stations and ensure that commuters can move about smoothly, he added.

Railway officials admitted that the development of major infrastructure projects aimed at decongesting the suburban railway corridor and implementation of SATIS had been delayed. A plan to remodel the Parel and Elphinstone road stations was being implemented slowly.

“Major infrastructure projects have been delayed owing to several reasons. After the Parel Terminus is constructed and sanctioned FoBs are in place, congestion at the Elphinstone Road and Parel stations will reduce,” said a senior railway official.

The Parel terminus, however, is likely to be completed by 2020 and the sanctioning of the FOB requires a series of approvals. After the finance ministry sanctions it, railway officials will take eight months to construct the FoBs.

Railway officials said they lack the manpower to control crowds. They said hawkers re-enter the stations while they are away and are now mostly found on trains.

First Published: Oct 29, 2017 00:33 IST