A tender inviting bids for construction of a new foot overbridge at Elphinstone Road station was ironically floated soon after the stampede that turned the 45-year-old structure into the site of one of Mumbai’s worst tragedies, official records show.
The toll from the incident during the morning rush hour on Friday on the overbridge connecting the Elphinstone Road and Parel stations in central Mumbai rose to 23 on Saturday.
Former Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had approved the proposal for a new bridge on April 23, 2015, senior railway officials said. While detailed cost estimates were confirmed by the finance department of Western Railway on August 22 this year, the tender were uploaded online on September 29, the day of the stampede.
Railway officials said it was purely by coincidence that the tender was floated on the same day as the stampede. Some were headed to work, others out shopping
“Making of a tender, finalising its commercial aspects and floating it online is a continuous process. It is by mere coincidence that the tender had to be floated online on the same day when the incident happened. It is equally unfortunate. Our tender was ready with the due permissions by September 22 itself,” Ravinder Bhaker, Chief Public Relations Officer, WR, said.
A K Gupta, General Manager, WR, said, “The competent authority had decided to float the tender on September 22 itself. The work includes not just the construction of FOB (foot overbridge) but also extension of platform and a few other technical changes. The uploading was delayed by a few days but the notice for tender was finally uploaded on the second half of Friday (September 29).”
However, a senior WR official said on condition of anonymity, “Projects worth small amounts often do get sidelined. Funds are diverted to major projects, which are more visible to the public. The tender could have been delayed due to this reason.”
The new bridge is expected to be 12 metres wide, more than double the 5-metre width of the existing structure. Commuters have repeatedly complained of severe overcrowding on the existing bridge during the morning and evening rush hours. Piyush Goyal discusses mandatory FOBs, CCTV installation in Railway Board meet
The existing bridge was constructed in 1972, and is used by at least 1 lakh commuters on average daily. At a meeting chaired by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Saturday, proposals to widen 13 foot overbridges and build 10 new FOBs on WR were approved. Central Railway, too, will have 20 new FOBs in the coming days, railway officials said. Parel is on the CR line, while Elphinstone Road is on the WR line.