In a bid to reduce the number of deaths due to commuters falling off crowded trains, starting Monday, Western Railway (WR) will carry out trial runs wherein non-AC coaches will have an automatic door-closing system. Three coaches fitted with such doors will first operate during non-peak hours, followed by peak hours, during which officials will note down the experience of the commuters on these trains.
At least three coaches — a ladies’ first-class coach, a general first-class coach and a second-class coach — have been equipped with these automatic doors in a 15-coach Siemens train. The construction of this train has been going on over the past eight months at the Mahalaxmi workshop of WR, after which static and field trials were also conducted to check its feasibility. Chief PRO of WR, Ravinder Bhakar, said, “As per the instruction from the Railway Board, three coaches have been equipped with door-closing systems. After taking the passengers’ feedback, a report will be sent to the board.” The board had sent the WR a letter in 2017, on which these trials are based. A report is yet to be submitted.
A similar trial was carried out in a first-class ladies’ compartment coach in 2015, with two doors of a single coach having automatic doors which were equipped with force ventilation.
The current trials are being done to gauge the reduction in the carrying capacity of a particular coach, as well as the time taken by these doors to open and close at crowded stations during peak and non-peak hours.
If a local train gets detained at crowded stations due to this door-closing mechanism, it may have a cascading effect on train punctuality during the day. “We will also observe if the doors actually close in time without causing inconvenience to passengers,” said a senior official from WR. The train is being designed to take anywhere between 2.5 and 6 seconds for the door to completely open and close. According to WR officials, the automatic doors are from the same company that has provided the facility in their AC trains.
Officials are, however, apprehensive about having such a facility in trains that do not have an AC unit. “The humid climate and super dense crush load will make its implementation a non-conducive prospect,” an official said, adding that it is “unlikely that these doors will be added to more coaches or trains”.
According to Government Railway Police (GRP), a total of 711 passengers died after falling off trains, of which 482 were on Central Railway (CR) and 299 were on WR.