FROM A new, additional foot overbridge at Elphinstone Road railway station to decongesting its parallel station, Parel, on Central Railway, senior railway officials and experts are collating different possible solutions to the problem of overcrowding on the foot overbridge at Elphinstone Road where 23 commuters died in a stampede on September 29. Officials from both Central Railway and Western Railway agree that 50,000 to 1 lakh commuters use the common foot overbridge that connects the two stations. While there is a daily footfall of around 3.5 lakh at Parel railway station, commuters using Elphinstone Road station number between 1 lakh and 2 lakh. The probe report into the cause of the stampede also contended that it was overcrowding and the rains together that caused the tragedy.
“There is a need for a ground survey of the stations to measure the station capacity according to footfall as opposed to ticket sales. That can better indicate the kind of capacity each railway station handles. We also need to plan the infrastructure that can co-relate with this originating crowd. Each station must have at least three-four foot overbridges for smooth travel,” said A V Shenoy, a transportation studies expert.
Railway officials have hinted at shifting the north-end booking office near the staircase that can ease up space for movement of commuters. Other suggestions include building a skywalk from the present foot overbridge connecting arterial roads, including Senapati Bapat Marg on the west and Lalbaug on the east of the stations.
“We aim to make a common link-bridge that can connect the skywalk, the existing foot overbridge, the new foot overbridge and the road overbridge at the north end of the station. This can allow free movement of commuters both ways. Plans to increase the landing space of the existing foot overbridge are also being examined,” said a senior Western Railway official.
Keeping hawkers out of a 50-metre radius of the station premises and clearing debris are other plans on the anvil. The report has also suggested disallowing commuters from carrying heavy items during peak hours. Meanwhile, railway officials are pinning their hopes on the impending Parel Terminus project.
A few other experts have suggested an additional foot overbridge landing somewhere between platforms 1 and 2 at Parel that would connect the barely used platforms 3 and 4.
M K Saran, a mechanical engineer who runs a private firm in Fort, has dug out a proposal he drew up 10 years ago to resolve overcrowding at Elphinstone Road and Parel stations during peak hours. In March 2007, he had suggested to the Central Railway that they construct a second foot overbridge when there was only a single connecting bridge taking passengers from both stations out into the city. After repeated attempts to solicit response on construction of bridges, the railways informed him that an FOB had been sanctioned at the Kalyan end of Parel railway station and tendering was at the final stage.
“There are four major hospitals in Parel and every day, I used to see pregnant women, children and cancer patients being pushed by other commuters as they climbed the bridge. No passenger is going to walk all the way to the far end of the platform and take a bridge that is away from their destination. Everyone is in too much of a hurry,” said Saran.