The lows and highs a commuter goes through on the platformsat Western Railway’s suburban stations are treacherous enough to bring them down. The slope of platforms that dip and rise without warning, widening the gap from the train’s footboard, create yawning holes that have swallowed commuters in the past. And work to level the disorderly inclination has halted dead in the tracks because the money has run out.
The repair work at many suburban stations has either stopped midway or hasn’t even taken off, because the authorities are falling short of an amount of Rs 8.5 crore, needed to bridge the gaps. MiD DAY has reported on the deadly gaps many times in the past. (‘Railway team visits to check platform height on WR’, September 3, 2012; ‘17 inches between life and death,’ March 31, 2012).
For the last many days, commuters have been weaving their way around cement slabs lying on platforms sprinkled with other construction material. But there is no repair work going on. Officials in WR claim that contractors have had to slam the brakes on the reconstruction activity at many stations due to a dearth of funds. They have been going to the railway offices to getsome clarity on the status of finances, but none seems forthcoming.
The plan was to raise the height at 32 platforms at different stations on the western line, at a total cost of Rs 13 crore. But officials say they have only been sanctioned roughly Rs 4.5 crore. Currently, the work of raising the height is either under way or completed on 11 platforms at seven different stations. These are: Charni Road, Grant Road, Elphinstone Road, Lower Parel, Khar, Mumbai Central and Andheri.
These stations were lucky enough to be funded from the sum of Rs 4 crore, which was fully used up for straightening some of their platforms, leaving others waiting for further release of funds. Divisional railway manager (Mumbai), Western Railway, Shailendra Kumar, said, “We have written to our headquarters for allotting the balance of funds so that we can complete this essential work.” Once the money comes in, the work is likely to resume.
Disparate heights within the stretch of a single platform at many stations spell trouble for passengers, specially the elderly and the women, who struggle to board and alight across the gaping holes. WR authorities are working on raising the platform height to a uniform 960 mm from the level of the tracks. Presently, this height is in the 760-840 mm range at different stations, while a local’s footboard is around 1,200 mm from the ground, which means there’s a 40-cm gap between platform and train on an average. Contributing to the difference in the height of platforms are the springs that come attached to the under-frame of the new local trains. The springs raise or lower the rake’s height depending on the number of people inside the coaches. So a crowded local would be lower, hence closer to the platform than a sparsely filled one.
Height of problem
760 mm - 840 mm
Current height of platforms from the ground level
Proposed height of platforms from ground level
Height of a train’s footboard from ground level
Number of deaths that occurred on the tracks on WR
(April 12-March 2013)