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Elphinstone foot overbridge a huge mismatch: 1972 bridge, 2017 crowd 1 lakh a day

While the Elphinstone foot overbridge on which Friday’s stampede that killed 22 people took place was built in 1972, over two decades before the transformation of the mill lands happened.

Written by Kavitha Iyer | Mumbai | Updated: September 30, 2017 7:54 am
Mumbai stampede, Elphinstone Road station stampede, Elphinstone stampede, Elphinstone Railway station stampede, Elphinstone foot overbridge, mumbai railway stampede, Devendra Fadnavis, Piyush Goyal, indian express Relatives of victims at the KEM Hospital. (Express Photo: Prashant Nadkar)

Making a pitch for the Smart Cities project in 2015-16, the Mumbai municipality said that nearly Rs 2 lakh crore have been invested in the Lower Parel region in recent years, and claimed that nearly 14 per cent of the city’s GDP is generated there. The former mill lands offer employment to 0.98 million, making this area a key central business district, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said.

But the suburban railway stations that service this major hub of commerce, finance, entertainment, media and tertiary services — Lower Parel, Parel, Elphinstone Road, Currey Road and Chinchpokli — and their infrastructure remain largely colonial-era structures.

While the foot overbridge on which Friday’s stampede that killed 22 people took place was built in 1972, over two decades before the transformation of the mill lands happened, the road overbridge it leads to dates back to 1918.

As this village of mills, formerly Girangaon, witnessed an unprecedented real estate boom from the FSI (Floor Space Index) bonanza, transport infrastructure planning was never dovetailed with new land-use plans, says urban planner Sulakshana Mahajan, who undertook several studies on urban transportation and land use for the government-backed Mumbai Transformation Support Unit (MTSU).

”A mill typically had 150 sq ft of space per worker, or about 150 workers in a 15,000-sq ft space. But mills only had a ground floor, and their FSI (the ratio of built-up area to plot area) was 0.5. In the same space, you now have multi-storeys with FSI of 2 or 3. So for every 1,000 mill workers, you now have maybe 9,000 to 10,000 employees in commercial office spaces. You have about 10 times more employees in this region now as compared to before the mill lands were opened up. But there is no affordable residential spaces for them nearby so they come by trains from the distant suburbs… the mill-workers lived nearby,” Mahajan told The Indian Express.

ALSO READ: Last year, Railways told MP Sachin Tendulkar: new overbridge provision has been sanctioned

The number of railway commuters boarding and alighting at Parel on Central Railway and Elphinstone Road on Western Railway has grown exponentially, shows a study for the Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation in 2011-12.

The highest section load (number of passengers aboard trains between sections) in the morning hours on Western Railway is observed on the Dadar-Elphinstone Road section, with 1,43,690 passengers on the Up direction in just the one hour between 8.30 am and 9.30 am, the survey found. There is no accurate data on section load prior to the 1990s, but senior railway officials estimate that the load has nearly doubled since three decades ago.

Today, Parel and Elphinstone Road stations together witness sales of more than 75 lakh tickets annually. Over 1 lakh people use this foot overbridge daily, railway officials estimate, perhaps 8-10 times more than in 1972 when the bridge was built.

”Before the 1990s, this area was entirely occupied by the working classes, whether it’s the mill workers or those employed in other factories, such as Glaxo or Mahindra in Worli. And these workers all lived in the same area,” says Datta Iswalkar, leader of the Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti, an association of former millworkers.

”Now, while the character of the city and this area has changed dramatically, there is not enough policy intervention on either transport infrastructure or rehabilitating or rebuilding the old chawl buildings,” he says.

Mumbai stampede, Elphinstone Road station stampede, Elphinstone stampede, Elphinstone Railway station stampede, Elphinstone foot overbridge, mumbai railway stampede, Devendra Fadnavis, Piyush Goyal, indian express Mumbai: Railway Minister Piyush Goyal arrives to visit the injured passengers at a hospital in Mumbai on Friday, following a stampede at Elphinstone railway station. PTI Photo by Shashank Parade (PTI9_29_2017_000073B)

A study by MTSU in the nearby C Ward area showed that while the resident population was 1 lakh, the day density was 5 lakh owing to the floating population of those employed in the area. Planners believe the same is true for the Lower Parel-Parel-Elphinstone Road area, with an estimated 10 lakh people visiting daily, raising day density sharply.

ALSO READ: Papa you go ahead, I will come: Last words of Mumbai stampede victim

Simultaneously, the completion of the World Bank-funded Mumbai Urban Transportation Project (MUTP) has led to the augmenting of railways’ carrying capacity, with 12-coach trains instead of the nine-coach carriers. But development of these station structures and associated infrastructure has not been commensurate.

The pedestrian space on the road overbridge outside the Elphinstone station is barely one-metre wide. The road overbridge itself was built by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway in 1913 and is equally congested, witnessing long traffic pile-ups like many other roads in the area.

Elphinstone Railway Station, Stampede, Elphinstone stampede, Prabhadevi Railway Station, Narendra Modi, Piyush Goyal, Devendra Fadnavis, Mumbai news, Indian Express (Source: Express Photo/Nirmal Harindran)

Property consultant Anuj Puri says Lower Parel witnessed a huge realty boom because the government opened up the large tracts of mill lands just when Nariman Point was offering no new commercial spaces. “Corporates seeking larger spaces found the Lower Parel region ideal because of the large new developments, its central location and the fact that the Bandra-Kurla Complex was comparatively expensive,” says Puri. Even today, office space vacancy is higher in Nariman Point than in central Mumbai.

ALSO READ: Mumbai horror: At least 22 dead, 39 injured in rush hour stampede at Elphinstone foot overbridge

This boom has taken place with almost no exhaustive studies on job density per acre or residential density per acre in the former mill lands. Neither the railways nor the BMC has any data on how many jobs exist in this business district in every building, how many of those workers use the railways, etc.

Darryl D’monte, who wrote ‘Ripping The Fabric: The Decline Of Mumbai And Its Mills’ in 2002, said the trans-harbour sea link may be an important aspect of transport planning for these former mill areas, allowing people to live in Navi Mumbai and work here, reducing the pressure on Elphinstone Road and adjoining railway stations.

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  1. E
    Sep 30, 2017 at 11:40 am
    Editor it is enough.I have full sympathy with the bereaved but dont act at Congress' behest.If at all someone is responsible it is the officers of the Railways. Congress had looted the nation for 55 years and that is why development s not there.What the PM can achieve in three years?Bhadwa Anand Sharma and PC are s who dont know their mother.This is handiwork of SS and MNS who do not want the Bullet train.
    1. d
      Sep 30, 2017 at 11:39 am
      It has become a fashion to throw mud at the government for everything, I agree that the fault lies there. How about others, specially the media. I will want to know if anybody has reported the need of upgrading/rebuilding the bridge. What role the media has played in preventing this tragedy to happen.
      1. E
        Sep 30, 2017 at 11:56 am
        Brother you dont know dian media is controlled by the Christians.Except this and one Gujarati daily all are controlled by the Congress who cant remain without power. Congress had looted the nation for 50 years and that is why there is no development.All it wanted was votes which it did by appeasing the minority.But in 2014 that did not work and the election is less than two years away.So they want to show the BJP and the PM in bad light.
      2. Sudhir Suri
        Sep 30, 2017 at 10:46 am
        What do we do ?Ask for resignation,blame the government and bask in the glory derived out of political mileage. Mumbaikars who never go to vote are most concerned on TV debate .Let us look at some factors.,The bridge was built in 19722.What were the projections then,what was the findings of environmental impact analysis (EIA).Obviously there is co-relation between the project approved and EIA,This is on the assumption that the building standards were adhered to.This is most unlikely.Now who should investigate(,easiest option)a high court judge .The expected impartiality ( a good enough reason?)The answer is No.Will a safety commissioner of railway investigate. Would any practical officer find fault with his organisation.The railway minister has asked for enquiry ,without realising the competency of investigation team..To my mind Safety is a sham word. Investigation board is ordered just to bail out of difficult situation.My linked in group on Safety has three comments in 3 years.
        1. A
          Sep 30, 2017 at 9:39 am
          70 of business profit belongs to govrenment as tax ... pluse many tolls and other property and road tax. But, no basic infrastructure , no medical facility , no proper education system . Only religion and politics Can someone think India? The Mogals rule seems to be better if you compare credible history.
          1. I
            Sep 30, 2017 at 9:31 am
            The accident indicate ABSOLUTE POOR CONDITION of India even after 70 years of INDEPENDENCE. ...................... Such tragedies occur because The GOVTs from 1950 were more interested in LOOTING INDIANS - UPA GOVT alone in 10 years LOOTED more than FOUR LAKH CRORE through CWG, 2G, COALGATE, TATRA TRUCK GATE, RAILGATE, CHOPPERGATE, ISRO-DEVAS gate, DLF-VADRA gate etc etc. ............ Unfortunately, the Indian COURTS are NOT THROWING these LOOTERS into JAIL. ... Even LOOT PUNISHED LALOO is enjoying life even after being accused of MORE LOOT.
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