WITH MUMBAI set to build 70 foot overbridges across the suburban railway network, commuters have raised concerns over lack of space on platforms to construct additional bridges. They expect railways should take additional measures to decongest stations in addition to constructing foot overbridges. After the Elphinstone Road station stampede last year, the first railway budget presented last week allocated almost Rs 880 crore for construction of bridges and additional amenities at stations.
This is the highest amount allocated to both the Central Railway and Western Railway to build and improve passenger amenities. According to the preliminary planning, railways would construct at least three foot overbridges at stations that have a larger footfall of commuters. Unlike earlier, when constructing foot overbridges at stations that generated lower revenue was also lower on priority, even smaller railway stations are set to receive two foot overbridges each.
“Sometimes, the construction of foot overbridge at platform takes a lot of time. This occupies the available space at the platform for us to walk freely during peak hour. At many stations, only one out of the three bridges constructed is widely used. Thus, constructing additional bridges serves no purpose,” said Raza Kumari, a commuter who switches trains at Dadar station to go to the western line.
Stations including Shelu, Palasdhar, Dolavali, Vasind in the far eastern suburbs of Central Railway are expected to get more than one bridge. According to official railway records, the stations hardly see a footfall of less than 5,000 commuters.
“We want to see subways replace the existing bridges as that can handle bigger crowds. There must be a proper way in which bridges are being planned at the location,” Satyen Mehta, a railway commuter said.
“More the foot overbridges, more space for the hawkers to occupy the area. We want free space to walk and stand inside the stations. The presence of hawkers and stalls does not let this happen. While crowded stations like Elphinstone Road require an additional bridge, stations like Dadar do not. The peak hour rush should be reduced,” Milind Ahire, regular railway commuter said.
Dadar station has three FOBs. To decongest the crowd, special focus must be paid to regulate the entry and exit points of the station. “Some stations are in need of seeing additional entry points. Certain railway stations see very narrow entry and exit points inside, like Mahalaxmi, Elphinstone Road stations. During peak hours, they witness excessive crowds. Some of the entry and exit points of the station could be increased,” Subhash Gupta, member, Rail Yatri Sangh, said. Ketan Goradia, another railway activist, said: “Proper planning needs to be done. Just providing additional bridges will not solve the crisis. Crowd segregation remains the key.” Senior railway officials said providing additional bridges will be the first step towards segregating the crowd.
“This could prove to be the first step to segregate crowds. According to the multi-disciplinary audit conducted, we are proving additional bridges at the required stations. The state government should also play a role in segregating office timings of employees which will ensure lesser crowd at the stations.”