In the aftermath of the stampede and deaths at Elphinstone Road station, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal announced 10 new foot overbridges (FOBs) for Western Railway and 20 on the Central Railway. Additionally, 13 existing FOBs on the WR route will be widened. There were 61 escalators sanctioned for CR stations and 31 for WR.
FOBs will also now be deemed mandatory and not a passenger amenity, a move empowering general managers to move quickly on safety and expected to puncture bureaucratic hurdles and avoid delays.
While the measures that have been announced post Elphinstone are welcome, why did it take a tragedy of these proportions to serve as a wake up-call? The Railways now need to become proactive, rather than reactive. Form an action task force, identify problem areas at railway stations and start working on them. If officials spot potential disaster spots like exits blocked, or tremendous surging crowds forming a pattern at a certain location during a particular time of the day, form a plan and work on eliminating that possible danger.
The construction of FOBs must stick to deadline, and we must ensure top quality work, rather than the tired old pattern of shoddy workmanship, bridges in danger of collapse and, then, time and money spent again to rebuild them.
Once these facilities are operational, the public has to use them with respect. Crossing tracks is an absolute no-no, using escalators in an undisciplined manner, causing disruptions and danger to others, should also attract heavy fines.
Together, we need to get serious about railway safety. The authorities must implement projects after due thought and process, and commuters must use all amenities with equal thoughtfulness, keeping safety first.
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