If the statistics provided by the Government Railway Police (GRP) is any indication, crossing the lifeline of Mumbai – the suburban railway tracks – is inviting death.
More than 52 per cent of people killed in railway accidents in 2013 were run over by trains while trying to cross the tracks.
As many as 1,826 people, including 210 women, were killed while crossing the railway tracks last year. According to the railway police, total 3,506 persons were killed in railway accidents in Mumbai last year.
The bad condition of foot overbridges (FOBs), huge number of unauthorised entry points to various stations, general lack of commuting discipline and the penchant for shortcuts are some of the reasons why people cross tracks.
A railway expert said the situation is dangerous in Mumbai where five or six tracks, or more, lie parallel and people living in slums on either side have no choice but to walk across the tracks.
The station stretches where the problem is more acute are Kalyan (246), Kurla (214), Thane (203), Borivli (184) and Vasai (134).
About 11.5 per cent of the total deaths due to track crossing were women commuters. What is alarming is that the number of women crossing tracks is growing.
"They often cross with children in tow and several of them are unaware of the track alignment or the direction from which a train would approach. However, the fact remains that the railways also need to build more FOBs and also maintain the ones already built," said a senior railway official.
Kalyan station saw highest number of women (39) commuters dying due to track crossing last year. Kalyan was followed by Thane (26), Borivli (21), Vasai (19) and Wadaal (16).
Only two women were killed at Churchgate, while three were killed each at Mumbai Central, Panvel and Karjat.
Alok Bohra, senior divisional security commissioner (RPF), Central Railway, said, "We have been carrying out drives against trespassers since July 2004. We have collected over Rs7.4 lakh as fine from 5,976 trespassers in 2013 on the Central Railway. Besides, 302 offenders were jailed."
He added that various awareness programmes have been organised at different stations to pass on safety messages to commuters.
"To spread awareness about trespassing, we make announcements at all stations and put up posters," a Central Railway official said.
Subhash Gupta, president of Yatri Sangh, Mumbai, said, "The railway administration with the help of state government should demolish slums mushrooming on either side of the tracks to minimise deaths and rehabilitate the slum dwellers elsewhere. Secondly, the Central Railway should increase the number of FOBs. The FOBs must be constructed at proper places so that passengers can use it."