Mumbai’s Local Trains Have A Poor Safety Record
10 people die Everyday in railway accidents in Mumbai. 36,152 people have died and 36,688 injured on Mumbai’s Suburban (Local) Trains, from 2002 to 2012. Of the 36,152 deaths, 15,053 occurred on Mumbai’s Western Railway line and 21,099 occurred on Mumbai’s Central Railway.
Mumbai’s Suburban Railway Train Services are among the busiest in the world. 7 to 7.5 million people use Mumbai’s Local Rail network daily. This is impressive when compared to other large cities, such as New York (5.25 million), London (3.75 million), Tokyo (6.3 million), Shanghai (5.6 million), Singapore (2.4 million), Paris (4.5 million), etc.
Unfortunately, Mumbai’s Suburban Trains have among the Highest Number of Accidental Deaths among suburban railway networks in the world.
Reasons For Accidents on Mumbai’s Suburban Trains
The main causes for the high number of accidents on Mumbai’s Rail network are as follows:
- Crossing Tracks and Trespassing: 2/3rd of all fatal accidents (approx 24,000) are because of people crossing the tracks rather than using the Foot-Over-Bridge (FOB). Also large parts of Railway land near the tracks have been encroached and people live in close proximity to the rail tracks, which leads to accidents.
- Falling Off Trains: This occurs due to overcrowding.
- Electrocution: It is a common sight to see commuters sitting on the roof of trains. After the conversion of Mumbai local railway lines from Direct Current (DC) to Alternating Current (AC), it has become even more dangerous to sit on the roof.
- Impact with Railway Electric Poles: Travelers leaning out of local trains are at a risk of being hit by electric poles that are all along the tracks.
Factors That Increase Risk Of Accidents On Mumbai’s Local Train Service
- No escalators at any of Mumbai Railway stations. This makes it cumbersome to cross railway bridges. Hence many people prefer to take the easy way out by crossing railway tracks.
- Mumbai’s Local Railway System has only 89 Foot Over Bridges (FOB) and 7 Subways. Considering that Mumbai’s Railway Network has 136 Suburban stations (36 Western Railway, 62 Central Railway, 38 Harbour Line), it is clear that the number of FOB is inadequate.
- The problem with many Mumbai railway stations is that they have narrow and too few Railway Bridges (FOB). As a result, it takes a long time for passengers to either get out of the station of arrive on the platforms. Many passengers prefer to cross the railway tracks to save time. This leads to rail accidents. It is a miracle that stampedes do not occur often on Mumbai’s suburban stations.
- Inadequate number of train services on Mumbai Rail network. This leads to overcrowding and increased risk of accidents due to pushing or attempting to catch the train. Anyone who has traveled in a Fast train during peak hour from Churchgate to Virar or VT to Dombivali will be able to empathize.
- Squatters and slums along Mumbai’s railway tracks lead to increased accidents. It’s a shame that Indian Railways has allowed so much of their land around tracks to be encroached. This land could have been used to increase Mumbai’s Rail infrastructure.
- Poor design of Railway rakes. Most cities are opting for Metro services which are comfortable (climate controlled) and safe (doors close when train starts). On the other hand, Mumbai’s local trains have had more or less the same design for the last 50 years, with minor design tweaks. The number of people who hang out of the large open wagon doors is alarming. Commuters are forced to hang out because of overcrowding and poor ventilation inside the train rake. Mumbai’s Rail authorities are still living in an older, more backward age.
- Many Mumbai stations have narrow railway platforms which get overcrowded during peak hours. These narrow platforms can be potentially dangerous with a slight nudge sending a commuter on the tracks. Observe the crowded Dadar railway station during peak hours. On top of this, callous railway officials have allowed stalls to be put, which further reduce the space available to commuters.
- Lack of Railway police to prevent passengers from sitting on the roof of trains. When was the last time you saw a Railway police official on the railway platform?
- Most of Mumbai’s Local train stations have poor medical facilities. Lack of immediate treatment of accident victims, increases fatalities.
- Narrow and crowded lanes near many stations; this delays the arrival of Ambulances in case of accidents.
- Large Gap between railway platform and railway track. At times people have fallen through these gaps.
- The Railway electric poles are too close to the tracks; as a result many accidents occur when commuters are hit by these poles. Railway authorities should have designed these at a distance.
Compensation Given To Mumbai Railway Accident Victims
From 2002 to 2012, Mumbai’s Suburban Rail authorities have paid approximately Rs 49 crore (Rs 490 million) to victims of Rail accidents and their families. Of this Western Railways has paid Rs 16 crore and Central Railways has paid Rs 33 crore.
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