Mumbai: Are Central Railway's FOBs really safe for commuters?

Updated: Dec 20, 2019, 07:12 IST | Rajendra B Aklekar | Mumbai

Survey of bridges at 13 stations between Thane-CSMT shows inspections pending for months

mid-day found that the inspection due dates of at least eight FOBs at five of the major stations have lapsed
mid-day found that the inspection due dates of at least eight FOBs at five of the major stations have lapsed

A mid-day survey of foot-over-bridges at 13 stations along the 32-km between Thane and CSMT has revealed missed inspection deadlines and lack of routine checks. With most maintenance schedule boards showing April 2019 as the last inspection date and November 2019 as the next due date, the situation points to a lack of seriousness by the Railways and raises concerns of passenger safety.

Earlier, this year, the IIT-B and the Railways had conducted a joint safety audit of all the 445 road-over-bridges and FOBs on both the Central Railway and Western Railway lines in order to improve the facilities and focus on commuter safety. Following this a few bridges were demolished and accountability boards with inspection schedules were put up on all the FOBs.

The board at Masjid station does not mention the inspection dates
The board at Masjid station does not mention the inspection dates

All of this was done after the CSMT bridge collapse this year in order to gain the public's confidence and fix accountability as well. The boards mention important parametres like the condition of bridges, person in-charge, last inspection date and the due date for the next inspection.

Past due date
Of the 19 stations between Thane and CSMT, mid-day visited the 13 busiest ones. It was found that the inspection due dates of at least eight FOBs at five stations, had lapsed. While at few stations the boards have been updated, some do not have the boards at all. While the board at CSMT mentions that the last inspection was done this month and the next is scheduled for December 2020 and has been certified as safe for public use, the one at the south-end bridge of the Masjid station has no mention of inspection dates.

Both the maintenance schedule boards at Matunga and Dadar railway stations show November 2019 as the next due date for inspection
Both the maintenance schedule boards at Matunga and Dadar railway stations show November 2019 as the next due date for inspection

At the busy Byculla station, the inspection due date of both the south-end and north-end bridges has lapsed as it was November 2019. The last time both the bridges were inspected was in April. The boards on both the bridges mention that they are safe for public use, but require routine inspection. At Chinchpokali too, the inspection due date has lapsed.

At Parel suburban terminus station, both the north and south-end bridges were inspected in November 2019 and the next due date has been mentioned as May 2020 on the boards. However, what is shocking is that the Railways has missed the inspection deadline (November 2019) of one of the biggest FOBs at Dadar station, which is used by over 5 lakh passengers daily. The signage says that the FOB is safe for public use and was last inspected in April. Similar is the condition of the south-end bridge, whose inspection due date has also lapsed. Same is the case of both the British-era bridges at Matunga station and the south-end one at Sion station.

Both the maintenance schedule boards at Matunga and Dadar railway stations show November 2019 as the next due date for inspection

However, all those at Kurla, Ghatkopar and Bhandup show proper inspection schedules and the boards at Mulund mention May 2020 as the next inspection due date. Surprisingly, at Thane station none of the FOBs have proper signage, while an old bridge is in the process of being dismantled and upgrades. However, Railway officials said the bridges were being inspected on time and there were no lapses anywhere.

"Is this a joke? The boards are there in public domain — the Railways need to show some seriousness regarding them. They not only make commuters lose trust in them, but also may lead to panic situations," said Subhash Gupta, member of National Railway Users' Consultative Committee. "The Railways need to be serious about bridges and their maintenance schedules, especially after the dangerous incidents that Mumbai has witnessed," said Nitin Parmar, member of zonal railway users' committee.

This board at CSMT mentions December 2020 as the next inspection due date, a whole year later
This board at CSMT mentions December 2020 as the next inspection due date, a whole year later

'Safety is our priority'
Speaking to mid-day, CR's chief public relations officer Shivaji Sutar said, "A detailed safety audit of all the FOBs has already been conducted. Action has been taken to dismantle and shut down bridges wherever required. Safety is the Railways' priority and continued efforts are being made to undertake repairs. We have repaired about 70 FOBs in this year and work is being done based on priority."

"This year a detailed inspection pro forma has been issued for inspection of FOBs. The inspection dates on the display boards are being updated. There has been no negligence on CR's part. None of the bridges are unsafe," he added. Retired railway board member (engineering) and former CR general manager, Subodh Jain said that there was no danger as the inspection schedule was prepared with enough buffer time.

19
Total no. of stations between Thane and CSMT

Missed deadline

Byculla station 2 FOBs
Chichpokali 1 FOB
Dadar 2 FOBs
Matunga 2 FOBs
Sion 1 FOB

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