Elphinstone to Malad: How Safe Are the Foot-Over-Bridges We Use?
The stampede that claimed 22 lives at a bridge in Elphinstone station has raised questions on the safety of bridges.
(This article was first published on 5 October 2017 and is being republished in the aftermath of a CST overbridge collapse on 14 March 2019.)
In 2016, a CAG report stated that a six-metre-wide foot-over-bridge must be provided with at all suburban railway stations in Mumbai. However, the tragic stampede that claimed the lives of at least 22 commuters at a bridge in Elphinstone station has raised questions about the safety of bridges.
To find out whether the foot-over-bridges measure up to the recommendation of the CAG, The Quint visited five stations — Elphinstone, Parel, Santacruz, Jogeshwari, and Malad.
First Stop: Elphinstone Bridge, Where the Tragedy Took Place
Days after the stampede, life seems to be back to normal for Mumbaikars, as commuters have once again started using the Elphinstone bridge to rush to work. Though at least a dozen policemen have now been stationed at both the exits of the bridge after the stampede, the entry and exit points are still narrow.
When measured, it was just 1.9 metres wide. Built over four decades ago, the bridge that was once used by mill workers at Elphinstone is today used by lakhs of commuters who work at Lower Parel and Elphinstone. Despite the increase in number of commuters over the years, the capacity of the bridge remains the same.
Second Stop: Parel Bridge
Parel station, which is a part of the Central Railways, is connected to the Elphinstone station by a foot-over-bridge. One of the staircases that connects to the bridge is around 3.8 metres wide. The bridge is separated by a divider to ensure two-way commuter traffic. The divider, however, is placed in a way that while one half is 2.4 metres wide, the other is just 1.4 metres wide.
Commuters say the narrow half of the bridge gets extremely crowded and dangerous during rush hour.
Third Stop: Santacruz Station
Plying along the Western line, Santacruz station receives footfall of around 1.2 lakh during rush hour. Commuters say the foot-over-bridge located at the northern end of the station becomes extremely crowded. To ensure safety, commuters have to wait up to 10 minutes for the bridge to decongest before they head to the exit or other platforms.
When measured, the width at the entrance and exit of the foot-over-bridge was found to be 2.4 metres.
Railways carry 3.6 lakh commuters per hour during peak hours, but their capacity is 1.8 lakh. We require public transportation for 1.8 lakh more commuters in addition to what the railways is providing, and that can come about through metro rail or the BRTS.Sudhir Badami, transport expert
At least nine people lose their lives on Mumbai’s railway tracks every day. This year, 2,200 people have already died due to accidents on the tracks of the city’s suburban railway network. While overcrowding trains is the most common reason, trespassing too claims many lives.
Fourth Stop: Jogeshwari Station
The moment one enters Jogeshwari station, it’s hard to miss the massive number of commuters trespassing across the tracks. Children, adults, and the elderly alike, most opt to sprint across the breadth of the tracks rather than use the foot-over-bridge. But despite this, the bridge at the Southern end of the station is still packed with commuters.
The entry and exit of the bridge was found to be just 2.8 metres wide. Commuters said during rush hour on weekdays they don’t have an option but to cross the tracks to avoid the congestion on the bridge.
I commute at least twice a day through Jogeshwari station. They are working on increasing the number of platforms, because of which there are no barricades. As the bridge isn’t sufficient, people cross the tracks to get from one end of the station to the other.Alka Bhagat, Commuter
Fifth Stop: Malad Station
Located in the Western suburbs of Mumbai, Malad is a commercial hub. During rush hour, the station receives over 1 lakh footfall, and while railway authorities have been working to increase the number of bridges at Malad station, the condition of one bridge is dilapidated. While taking the foot-over-bridge at the west side of Malad, one cannot miss the cracks on the surface and the broken stairs.
However, it is the underside of the bridge that gives an accurate estimate of the condition. With chunks of concrete broken leaving the steel rods exposed, the danger to commuters using the bridge is evident.
Camera: Yashpal Singh
Editors: Kammaljiit Kainth and Veeru Krishan Mohan
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