Elphinstone Road station stampede: Danger lurking for railway passengers

"Commuters working at the Sales Tax office in Mazgaon and other people heading to Mazgaon have been facing difficulties. Some have even died crossing the rail tracks in the absence of an FOB,” said Abasaheb Deshmukh, who runs a bookstall at the Sandhurst Road station entrance.

| Mumbai | Updated: October 1, 2017 5:15 am
Elphinstone Road station stampede, Mumbai suburban railway stations, passenger safety in Mumbai, Mumbai railways and passenger safety, India news, national news, latest newsm The evening rush at the CST-end bridge at Kurla station on Saturday. Janak Rathod

Currey Road station

Barely two kms from Elphinstone Road, Currey Road station on the central line also witnessed a similar rush on Friday. With commuters taking shelter from the rain, a huge crowd had gathered at the station’s exit. Averting a possible accident, the station staff allowed some women to wait at the booking office.

“With incoming trains bringing in more crowd and nobody exiting the station, there was a complete chaos. There was a pregnant woman in the crowd and she was feeling uneasy. So, we made her and other women sit inside,” said a station staff member.

With only one FOB for the entire station, at the northern end, it becomes the sole entry and exit point. According to station staff, it is an absolute nightmare for commuters to exit or enter the station during rush hours.

“During peak hours, if trains from both Churchgate and Virar side come at the same time, commuters take five to 10 minutes to leave the station. The queue extends all the way to the other end of the station and during this time, there is hardly any space for commuters to enter,” said Suresh Desai, a bookstall vendor at the station.

Constructed in 1920s, the ramp of the FOB ends at the station’s sole ticket counter. This means, commuters exiting or entering the station have to battle for space with those who queue up to buy tickets.

“If even 15 people stand in the queue, it blocks the station exit. The only saving grace is that unlike the staircase at Elphinstone station, it has a ramp. There are less chances of people falling or tripping here,” said a station staff member.

The railways is in the process of constructing another FOB at the southern end of the station. Work started in October last year and according to railway officials, it is expected to be completed in a month or two. The FOB will lead to the monorail station of the upcoming Phase II line, from Wadala to Sant Gadge Maharaj Chowk.

For commuters, the battle for space continues onto the footpath outside the railway station. The narrow footpath barely allows two persons to walk at a time. “During rush hours, people are bumping into each other while walking on the footpath. Just one person has to stop in his path and chaos descends here,” says a hawker who sits on the footpath.

Kurla station

Images of the stampede on the FOB at Elphinstone Road station disturbed many commuters who take a bridge on platform 7-8 at Kurla that also sees a huge commuter rush. While there have been new bridges on the platform, the second bridge from the CST end at Kurla continues to be crowded with people as trains pull in. Complaints of women being groped and mobiles phones being stolen are common.

Amirchand Ram (42), who works as a shoeshine man at the platform right opposite the FOB, said: “If you come between 9 and 11 am and 5 and 8 pm, there is a huge crowd that gathers near the bridge. Sometimes
when more than two trains come, it takes people more than five minutes to climb up
the stairs.”

“So many fights break out between people who try to push their way up to the bridge,” he added.  Amipreet Pachpor (25), a Kharghar resident, said: “Even the sloping bridge at the Navi Mumbai-end of platform  7-8 is very crowded in the mornings. Sometimes in the crowd, some men try to touch women inappropriately.”

Nalasopara station

The penultimate station for the Virar local is Nalasopara. Residents say the station infrastructure is the poorest on the western line.

Nalasopara resident Mittul Kansara said: “Nalasopara station used to have only two platforms. Now, it has four. They also extended the FOB last year to connect the two new platforms. But situation remains the same. We wade through crowded FOBs daily. If something goes wrong, it could lead to a stampede-like situation even here.”

Kansara, a 31-year-old I-T professional said change in platform numbers of trains coming into the station leads to commuters running helter skelter causing complete chaos.

“Trains scheduled to come on platform number two, suddenly arrives at platform four. They announce the change a minute before the arrival of the train. Or we just see the change in the indicator. People then race to catch that train. Some even jump from one platform to another across the tracks. This can lead to a major mishap.”

Dhananjay Gawade, the Shiv Sena corporator of Nalasopara, who visited the station on Saturday to speak to commuters, said: “We have informed the railway authorities many times about the situation and have been following up the issues for the past two years now. I had myself written to former railway minister Suresh Prabhu about this. But no step has been taken. I hope at least now the authorities will wake up.”

Borivali station

One of the busiest railway stations on the Western Railway, Borivali is one of the 400 model stations in India selected by the Railway Ministry.

It now has a 6 m wide and 80 m long foot overbridge with amenities like escalators and ramps for easy movement of passengers. However, platforms often see water logging leading overcrowding during the peak hours.

Saroj Mahadik, who works in a bank at Dadar, said: “With an increase in population which majorly depends on railways for daily commute, changing the face of just one station is not enough. Even if they have worked on the FOB, what about the platforms. At one end they have increased the height of the platform to cover the gap between platform and trains. Whenever it rains, there is waterlogging, forcing the platforms to get overcrowded. People are forced to walk on the edge. Someday, someone might lose balance and fall on the tracks. Till last year, Borivali had the same problem. I think the government must appoint experts to solve the problem.”

An RPF official from Borivali railway station said they have to deal with cases of eve-teasing and molestation during the peak hours.

“Women come to us or those stationed on the platforms almost daily with complaints of being touched inappropriately by fellow commuters in the crowd. We often ask women commuters to stay in a group or move only after the crowd clears from bridge.”

Sandhurst Road station

After Hancock Bridge was demolished in January 2016, commuters travelling to and from Sandhurst Road station are left with only one foot overbridge from the central line platform. The only FOB at the station, on the southern end, connects only to the west and the station has no direct connection to the east.

“With only one FOB, people have to walk longer distances to their destinations. Commuters working at the Sales Tax office in Mazgaon and other people heading to Mazgaon have been facing difficulties. Some have even died crossing the rail tracks in the absence of an FOB,” said Abasaheb Deshmukh, who runs a bookstall at the station entrance.

Activist Kamlakar Shenoy had filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court — it had sought for the construction of a temporary FOB at the station owing to the deaths on the tracks.

After the demolition of the bridge in January 2016, there were seven accidents while crossing rail tracks — four were fatal and three persons had been injured.

“The court directed them to barricade the tracks and in 2017, no deaths have occurred so far,” said Shenoy.

The elevated harbour line has only one FOB at the southern end. Lack of another FOB does not cause crowding issues as the station does not see much rush.

“Even when both up and down trains arrive at the platform at the same time, there is not much rush so one FOB is enough for both the central and harbour lines,” said a station staff.

But harbour line is serviced by a foot underbridge, which leads to a narrow path going through the stabling lines to the east.

Being the servicing area for trains, commuters are not allowed to travel through the place. But people can be seen using it.

“It is a shorter way to reach my workplace. Otherwise I have to exit the station and go around to access another FOB,” said Anil Kumar, who works near the docks and regularly uses the path.

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