Common issues faced by the Western Railway include deaths occurring due to people crossing the tracks, people falling off trains due to overcrowding and passengers slipping into the disastrous gap between the platform and the train.
Recently, Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation Ltd. commissioned a study to understand better the level of trespassing that occurs over the tracks in the Mumbai Suburban area and unearth solutions for it. This study highlights 20 spots, located in between railway stations, which witness a large number of track crossers. This not only endangers the life of the person crossing the tracks but also compromises on rail safety.
Shailendra Kumar, divisional railway manager (WR), says, "Despite several campaigns and initiatives, people still cross the tracks, fully understanding that it is a life threatening decision. Their primary reason is convenience—they assume that it will not result in an accident."
A lot of reasons can be accredited to why people cross the tracks, but one of the primary reasons is the need to save time. It is all about saving that precious second.
Even young college students, who are often warned about the hazards of crossing railway tracks, do not hesitate before crossing it. Priyesh Koya, a Vile Parle college student, says, "I cross the tracks as the foot over bridge (FOB) is always crowded. My friends too cross the tracks."
On an average, crossing railway tracks leads to the death of 4,000 commuters every year and about the same number of people getting injured. Many passengers are compelled to cross the tracks due to lack of good infrastructure.
The FOBs at various stations, especially in Kandivali and Andheri, tend to get overcrowded during the peak hours as they cannot accommodate so many people. Add to that the lack of facilities for the physically challenged and senior citizens—it calls for more ramps, escalators and elevators.
Deepak Shah, an Andheri resident, shares, "Look at the crowd on the FOBs during the peak hours, it is overcrowded. How do you expect a senior citizen to access such a crowded bridge—taking the stairs adds to his grief."
Prabhat Rajan, chief PRO, Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation Ltd, informs, "The suggestions proposed by the study have been considered and few interventions are being finalised. We are planning to work around infrastructure solutions that have been highlighted in the study. This includes constructing more RCC walls and FOBs—and inter-linking them. Metallic barricades and fencing will be put up wherever required. The work will be completed by 2016 and will make the railway safer."
Though stations like Dadar and Vile Parle now have escalators, installing them at all stations is the need of the hour. Fencing at the tracks may prevent commuters from crossing them. Palak Shah, a Goregaon resident, says, "I think the major hurdle is that people, who find it difficult to climb the stairs, look for shortcuts. Hence, if more elevators are installed, people might stop crossing the tracks."
Kandivali station is the most populated railway station in the suburbs and is accessed by a large number of passengers. This station has witnessed plenty of deaths due to trespassing, which prompted the railway authorities, a few years ago, to construct an FOB connecting east to west, which can be accessed without a ticket. The eastern side of the station is used by people to go to Poisar village.
Deepak Patel, a Kandivali resident, says, "Few years back, the railway authorities had built a fencing wall to prevent people from crossing the tracks. Now, one portion of the fence has been twisted in such a way that it allows people to pass through it and cross the tracks."
Kumar adds, "We have been campaigning against track crossings in form of street plays, print and banner ads, short films and ads on BEST buses. Despite such relentless campaigns, people still cross tracks and risk their lives. At several places, we have created boundary walls, but people find a way to jump over it or make their way around it."
2013 statistics shows:
52 per cent of all railway accident deaths are due to track crossing
1,826 People have been killed while crossing tracks
11% of which are women