3,431 lives lost in rail accidents in Mumbai last year

With railways data revealing over 3,000 accidental passenger deaths in 2014, it is imperative that the authorities begin implementing Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s suggestions for improved commuter safety as soon as possible

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu’s proposal of a safety plan for railway commuters announced earlier this month could not have come soon enough, as fresh data from the railways shows that over 3,000 people died in 2014 in rail accidents due to overcrowding of trains, trespassing and other factors.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu

The minister’s plan included introducing automated doors in the coaches to prevent passengers from falling out, as well as constant announcements to discourage trespassers, among other measures. He had also suggested that international safety experts be brought in to develop other methods to ensure a safe ride for railway commuters. However, most of these suggestions are still a long way from becoming a reality.

Automated doors
Western Railway has been working on the automated doors for quite a few months now. While the opening and closing of doors will add at least five seconds to the duration of halts at stations, they will prevent people from falling out of moving trains.

The doors will be linked to the train brakes until the doors are completely shut, the brakes won’t release. Western Railway officials are currently testing the doors and sorting out issues such as ventilation. “We are working on the technical aspect of this system so that there are no problems during operations,” said a WR official.

However, even as the authorities have been working on these doors, 797 people who were forced to stand close to or hang from the coach entrances due to overcrowding lost their lives after falling off last year. While this number is lower than 2013’s count of 901 deaths, it is still an alarming reminder that the authorities need to work faster to prevent more such mishaps.

Just a couple of days ago, four women were ploughed down by a CST-bound long distance train while they were crossing railway tracks. Every year, there are hundreds who lose their lives in this manner.

In fact, last year, 1,912 people died while trespassing, a much higher number than the 1,826 deaths recorded in 2013. “We make regular announcements at stations urging people to use FOBs and avoid trespassing,” said a CR official. Despite the announcements, trespassing, and the resulting accidents are on the rise.

Mind the gap
Under fire for the gaping height difference between trains and platforms, the railways have been working on increasing platform heights. In 2014, the gaps claimed 34 lives, compared to 19 in 2013.

Rail authorities are increasing the height of platforms to 900mm from the earlier 760mm-840mm. Work has been completed at several stations and at many others, one can see concrete tiles waiting to be placed on the platforms.

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