THE STAMPEDE on the staircase of the foot overbridge at Elphinstone Road station on the Western Railway that claimed 23 lives was triggered by circumstances created on account of crowding and the rains, said Mukul Jain, Divisional Railway Manager, Western Railway. More than the absence of another overbridge at the station, it was the blockage of passengers on the staircase that caused the incident, he told The Indian Express.
“This stampede has taken place perhaps not because of the new FOB not being there. This kind of crowding is taking place day in and day out. Our commuters are used to the crowding. It was the very circumstance that occurred that day that led to overcrowding on the staircase that triggered the incident,” he said.
Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has assured that the new FOB will be ready within a year. Jain said though the tender for the new bridge had been finalised early this year, it would have taken another year for the bridge to be built. “Even though the tender for the bridge had been finalised in March-April this year, it would not have been ready. Rains coupled with a singular movement of commuters on the bridge led to overcrowding on the staircase, which triggered the stampede. The exact reason will be deciphered only after the inquiry report is out,” he added.
From primary information received, Jain said, it appeared that commuters were using the staircase normally until the movement of commuters moving out of the staircase stopped. “It rained at least 40 mm between 10 am and 11 am on that day. Also, 29 trains each stopped on the platforms of Elphinstone Road and Parel during the same time. The crowd built up and something unusual happened on the landing. Had it not rained so much that day, the build-up of crowd would not have been there,” he said.
The Sunday Express reported that the tender for the alternative bridge was actually uploaded online just hours after after the stampede.
“After the project was commissioned in 2016, both Central Railway and Western Railway had started work on it. It was a long drawn process and when two separate railway zones (Central and Western) work on one project, coordination takes longer than any other project of a standalone zone. The tender was coincidentally uploaded on the same day of the accident,” Jain said.
He agreed that there was extreme crowding on the overbridges and at platforms on WR. “Crowding is there and we know it. People say it takes 6-7 minutes to reach the platform after they enter and another 6-7 minutes to exit the platform. It is for this reason that work on creating additional FOBs is in progress,” said Jain.
He said while more FOBs and additional services were being planned on the line, the new Metro Rail corridor could ease the load off the Railways. “There are crowds and we are tackling it. Many big-ticket projects to increase train capacity are being sanctioned. The population beyond Bandra towards the north has increased over the years. The Metro line will take this crowd off the trains,” said Jain. He added that the narrow foot overbridges on the WR would widened soon.