AROUND TWO months after a 14-year-old boy was run over by a train while crossing the tracks at Sandhurst Road station, 22-year-old Pramod Kumar met with the same fate on April 6.
Residents attribute the accidents on this stretch of the Central Railway line to the fact that the 135-year-old Hancock Bridge, crucial for east-west connectivity, was razed in January. Thousands of locals now cross the railway tracks rather than take a longer alternative route.
A resident of Sion, Kumar was hit by a Kalyan-bound train. Like most victims, Kumar was rushed to St George Hospital, but there was not much the doctors could do to help.
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After the death of the Gaurav Vora (14), around 150 residents of Ekta Nagar slums had staged a protest on February 16, following which the BMC assured that a temporary bridge for pedestrians would be built across the railway tracks.
Jyothi Rathod, one of the protesters and a resident of Walpakhadi, said the detour costs them more than 20 minutes as well as money. “My son studies in St Mary’s School in Mazagaon and we used to take the bridge and reach in five minutes. But now, the route takes longer and costs more money. If the BMC had to demolish the bridge, they should have at least provided us with an alternative,” she said.
Rathod said the BMC and the Railways had assured the protesters they would come up with a temporary solution at the earliest. “The BMC had then said they would construct a temporary bridge for pedestrians and the Railways said they would issue permission within 24 hours. Two months on, they are passing the buck to each other,” she said.
The harbour line as well as the central line Sandhurst Road station has just one common exit and entrance.
Last week, MLA Waris Pathan protested at the station and wrote to the civic chief for a temporary bridge for pedestrians.
“Around 40,000 people would use the Hancock Bridge every day. With the bridge demolished, there are several temporary options like a military bridge. Though people have been protesting, the Railways and the BMC simply keep pushing the responsibility onto each other,” he said.
Naresh Gohil (44) was spotted crossing the railway tracks on Tuesday. When asked, he replied that he cannot afford the delay and was thus compelled to climb over the wall.
“I stay in Tarwadi and have to go to Prabhadevi. I have been using the Hancock Bridge for the past 24 years and all of a sudden that route is gone,” he said.
Senior officials in the BMC’s bridges department said there is no proposal for a pedestrian foot overbridge (FOB). “The Railways had submitted an affidavit in which they stated a FOB is not feasible. The BMC is building a road overbridge to replace the Hancock Bridge.
The civic body can provide funds if necessary but the Railways should construct the bridge since Sandhurst Road station has never had east-west connecting foot overbridge,” said the senior official.
The road overbridge replacing Hancock Bridge will take around 18 months.
Countering the BMC’s response, the Railways stated that the FOB would be used by all pedestrians and not just those who travel by the train.
“The Hancock Bridge was owned by the BMC and it is their job to provide infrastructure to people,” said Narendra Patil, CPRO, Central Railway.
Another official said the BMC has not approached the CR with any proposal of the bridge. “Most of the deaths occur between the stations because there aren’t enough bridges. The BMC can construct a skywalk for the people near the Sandhurst Road station and we have no issues giving permission,” said the official.