Kanchan Koshi, a consultant by profession, patiently waited in the queue on Saturday to take the stairway of the old foot overbridge at Parel station. She needs to report to work at a garment firm in Prabhadevi by 10.30 am. The queue takes 10 minutes of her time — something she has got used to since last year.
“With the climb on the staircase taking a little around 10 minutes, I have started leaving early from home,” said Koshi, who has been commuting through Parel station for the last 10 years. “In the last one year, while two new foot overbridges (FoBs) have been constructed, the crowd has not reduced, as the two do not connect Parel and Prabhadevi stations.”
The same day last year, the old FoB at Parel station had witnessed the loss of 23 lives in a stampede. The FoB, built in 1972, connects Parel station to Prabhadevi station. It is widely used by commuters who are employed in the offices located on the Senapati Bapat Marg or who want to switch to the western line.
Since the stampede, the Army had constructed a bridge on the northern end of the station, worth Rs 6 crore. This bridge connects Parel station to Dadar’s flower market and largely helps flower vendors. In July this year, the Western Railway had constructed another FoB that connects Parel station to the western line. It is the second bridge to go to the Western side but as it does not connect Prabhadevi station, commuters hardly use it.
Back at the station, commuters expressed disappointment over the Railways failing to connect the new bridge to Prabhadevi station. “Even if I want to use the new bridge, I am forced to get out at Parel station and take another bridge to get to Prabhadevi. This is a tedious process,” said Akshay Marathe, whose office is near Prabhadevi.
During peak hours, officials from Maharashtra Security Force (MSF) guard the crowd movement at the staircase of the old FoB. Due to the presence of security officials, hawkers hardly crowd up on the bridge. “After the incident, commuters have become sensitive about moving in a line. Hopefully, they have learnt not to believe in rumors blindly,” said a senior MSF official.
Subhash Gupta, a member of Zonal Railway User Consultative Committee, said: “The MSF officials do not guard the crowd movement on the old bridge during non-peak hours. As none of the new bridges connect Prabhadevi station, they are not popular.”
While most complained that the new bridges not serving their purpose, a few thought otherwise. “In the aftermath of the stampede, many things have changed for good at Parel and Prabhadevi stations. The Central Railway has constructed an additional platform, which has decongested the crowd movement at Parel station. There are more options for me as a commuter to get in and out of the station,” said Lakshmi Zodage, who works as an office assistant in Lower Parel.
On Saturday, the families of the people who died in the stampede held a candlelight march near Prabhadevi station. Flower vendor Savita Kohli, recalled her lucky escape. “Last year, I escaped the stampede by hardly 15 minutes. Though many bridges have been constructed now, the losses are irreversible,” Kohli said, adding that the new bridge made by the Army helps her reach the flower market on time.