Alongside the rising crowds at Parel and Elphinstone Road railway stations amid commercial development in the localities nearby, there has also been in recent years a steady stream of complaints from regular commuters about the narrow staircase and crowded foot overbridge at Elphinstone Road railway station. Several commuters not only asked for an alternative bridge but also said, over the last several months, that a stampede-like situation could arise.
The daily footfall on the bridge would exceed one lakh, railway officials said. In fact, the bridge connecting Parel on the Central Railway (CR) and Elphinstone Road station on the Western Railway (WR) is used as an alternative to the foot overbridge at Dadar railway station for those wanting to switch between the two railway lines.
“This was bound to happen. During peak hours, climbing up or down the bridge always proved to be a fearful task. The incident is a reflection of the sorry state of the railways. Regular commuters, including me, have tweeted to the ministry long ago about how such a stampede is waiting to happen,” Abhishek Shenoy, a commuter, said.
The bridge, 5 metres wide and 32 metres long, was constructed in 1972. According to commuters, the north-end booking office staircase is also commonly used by those commuting to the flower and fish markets in Dadar.
“I have been using the bridge for the past 15 years. I have always used the particular staircase and it has always been this crowded. There was a need to initiate construction of an alternative bridge at this station long ago,” said Kamlesh Ghangane, an employee at the flower market.
According to official records, in 2013, the railways built an additional bridge on the southern side of Parel railway station, but this remains far less popular as it does not connect the two stations.
The plan for a Parel terminus that would also include an additional foot overbridge connecting the two stations remains on the cards.
“While former Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had inaugurated the Parel terminus work last year, it is only supposed to be completed two years from now,” a senior railway official said.
Prabhu had also sanctioned Rs 12 crore for an additional FOB in 2015. Railway officials said tenders have been floated and work on extending the platforms of Elphinstone Road station is also underway. An official railway statement on Friday said a 12-metre FOB at the north-end parallel to this bridge has already been sanctioned.
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“The Parel terminus plan should have been executed long back considering it was part of the Mumbai Urban Transport Plan II devised in 2002. We demand action to be taken against the delay in implementing the construction of the bridge till this hour,” railway activist Subhash Gupta said.
Another activist, Bhavesh Patel, said additional CCTV cameras are needed. “It is shocking that there was no police bandobast on one of the most congested FOBs just before Dussehra,” he said.
There are 109 FOBs and 11 subways on the Churchgate-Virar section while 14 more are under construction. Railway officials said 35 escalators have been provided and 30 more are being provided in a phased manner.
But commuters say the shoddy condition of FOBs at other railway stations on both CR and WR should be tackled too. According to senior railway officials and commuters, at least ten other FOBs could witness similar incidents.
“Platform number one at Vasai Road station does not have any direct connectivity with other platforms. We see a lot of people crossing the tracks only because there is so much crowd on the FOB. There is a need to provide an alternative bridge,” said Sameer Pathak, who uses the Vasai Road station.
“The Lower Parel FOB at platform number one is equally crazy during peak hours. Trespassing on the tracks to avoid this FOB is also common,” Rikin Gogri, another commuter, added.