Black days
Delhi Confidential: Moving coffins

Rlys to increase platform height without design body approval

RDSO doubtful about train safety.

RDSO doubtful about train safety. RDSO doubtful about train safety.

Following public outcry about wide gaps between platforms and footboard of trains, the Railway Board has directed the Central (CR) and Western Railway (WR) to reduce the gap, despite the Research Design and Standards Organisation, the Indian Railways’ design approval body, yet to give written nod for the proposed change. The Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) is not convinced of the safe passage of trains through suburban platforms if the height is increased to 920 mm, railway officials said.

In fact, since 2012, the RDSO has repeatedly denied permission for changes in the Schedule of Dimensions (SODs) of platforms. SOD is the standard measurement that has to be adhered to during civil engineering works.

Following an accident on January 5, in which 16-year-old Monika More lost her arms after falling into a gap around a signal pole at Ghatkopar railway station, railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge asked the railways to reduce the gap between platforms and train footboards.

While presently the gap between the platform and the footboard has to be between 760 mm and 840 mm, it is proposed to be increased to 920 mm at 74 stations identified by the zonal railways. During a recent visit to Mumbai, Devi Prasad Pande, Member (Traffic), Railway Board, inspected the new platform height at Charni Road and Grant Road stations recently.

Asked about the RDSO’s stand on the proposed platform height, A K Mathur, executive director (administration) and Chief Public Relations Officer, RDSO, said, “With the Bombay High Court ordering an expert committee to examine the gap, RDSO will undertake new trials along with the railways and the litigants.”

A senior WR official said, “We are yet to receive a written approval from the RDSO for the new height at platforms.”
Following initial field trials by RDSO, the Railway Board on August 29, 2012, asked WR not to make any changes to the height of platforms, and instead make good the deficiency in platform height wherever it was less than 840 mm.

In a letter dated October 23, 2012, to R Ramanathan, additional member (civil engineering), Railway Board, the then GM of WR Mahesh Kumar had said, “Floor height of Siemens rakes varies from 1195 mm to 1220 mm above rail level… due to this passengers are facing problem in boarding trains or alighting. A trial has been conducted to examine whether raising of platform is possible to reduce this gap.’’

Kumar had further said, “During subsequent correspondence, RDSO has maintained that the height of the platform should be 840 mm only. The same stand was taken in a recent letter.”

A senior railway officer said, “For the past two years, RDSO denied permission to the railways to increase the height of platforms.

The recent incident has nothing to do with the gap between platforms and trains. However, succumbing to public outrage, the railways decided to increase the height without a proper study. One is not undermining casualties arising due to the gap, but it is important to understand that the issue of trespassing needs more attention.”

Every year, on an average, more than 55 per cent of deaths on tracks are on account of trespassing, while less than one per cent are caused due to the gaps.

A senior CR officer said, “There are different types of coaching stock, which includes mail/express and EMUs (old DC, BHEL, retrofitted and AC/DC Siemens and Bombardier rakes). Despite having different suspension systems and footboard heights, in Mumbai, all rakes use the same platforms. Also, during monsoons, tracks are raised to avoid water logging. Care should be taken that when platforms are raised, the tolerance limit for the safe passage of trains is maintained.”

Another senior WR officer, said, “DC EMU stock have coil springs which compress during the peak load. However Siemens and Bombardier rakes have air suspension system which keeps itself at the same level during the peak load. If we do not maintain the tolerance limit, trains could graze on platforms, leading to freak accidents.”

The plan

* The height of 48 platforms on WR will be raised

* In phase I, WR will raise the height of 32 platforms from 760 mm to 920 mm. Work on nine platforms is complete

* In phase 2, work will be undertaken at 16 platforms where the height is
760-840 mm

* At 103 platforms, the height is 840 mm. This, too, will be increased to 920 mm

* Railways will spend around Rs 40 lakh on each platform

* On CR, work will be undertaken at 55 platforms where the height is
760-840 mm

kalpana.verma@expressindia.com

priyal.dave@expressindia.com

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