NEW DELHI: The Mumbai stampede that killed 22 commuters on Friday morning gives the lie to the safety of railway infrastructure. As far back as 2006, a CAG report audited suburban train services and found that the Indian Railways had reduced the width of the foot-over-bridges at many stations. That report clearly flagged the need for foot-over-bridges with a 6 m width at all suburban railway platforms.
The bridge connecting Elphinstone Road and Parel Stations stations in Mumbai, where the stampede took place, was a mere 4.8 m wide. A new bridge was sanctioned at this very spot in the 2017-18 has budge. “One foot-over-bridge (FOB) of 6 m width was required to be provided at all suburban stations. It was observed that FOBs of the prescribed size had not been provided at five stations audited by CAG,” said the 206 report. It further noted that FOBs are an important passenger amenity, especialy from a passenger safety point of view.
The national auditor highlighted that Indian Railways in its Citizen’s Charter committed itself to provide safe and dependable train services to passengers. The auditor also pointed out that a report submitted to the Minister of Railways had stated that out of the 15000 deaths that occur every year in the railway system, about 6000 happen in the Mumbai suburban system, most of them due to trespassing.
The report further stated that trespassing takes place mainly on account of lack of barricading, fencing, inadequate number of pedestrian overbridges and reluctance to replace pedestrian level crossings with foot-over-bridges (FOBs). On Friday, however, the railways took the plea that the stampede was not the result of any infrastructure on its part. “There was no structural damage to the FOB which can be attributed to the stampede. The FOB is 4.8 m wide and 32 m long with dual exits -- north and south,” said a statement issued by the railways.