Mumbai: CR loses track of safety in railway bridge repairs
Railway authorities rush to repair Sandhurst Road rail bridge without bothering to halt local trains or provide workers with basic safety gear
Criticism continues to pile for the poor condition of bridges in the city, but the message of safety is still lost on the Central Railway (CR). The authorities have thrown all caution to the wind in their sudden desperation to complete repairs of the Sandhurst Road rail bridge. Commuters were shocked to see workers repairing the railway bridge with a blazing hot furnace right in the middle of tracks, as trains speed by.
On Thursday afternoon, parts of the elevated railway bridge were being repaired at the station, even as trains continued to ply. Every time a train whooshed by, one of the workers had to get away from the racks and hide in an alcove under the platform. Another labourer coolly sat and stoked a hot furnace in the middle of the down and up tracks, even as trains sped by on either side. Neither of them had any safety gear on.
It's clear how dangerously close the work is going on from this picture, shot by a commuter standing on the footboard of a train at Sandhurst Road station
"We watched in disbelief as a worker, without any safety gear or harness, bent under the platform while the trains passed by," recalled G Ashtosh, who passed through Sandhurst Road station yesterday.
Risky for everyone
Photographs taken from the footboard of passing trains show how dangerously close the repairs are being carried out. There is a very real danger to both the workers and the commuters.
"There is a major risk of the burning mixture from the furnace blowing into passengers' faces. Such repairs should be done at night, when train operations are minimal," said Subhash Gupta, a former member of a passenger association.
Workers working alongside a moving train
Since the partial collapse of the Gokhale road overbridge at Andheri station in July, followed by a subsequent audit of bridges over railway lines, the authorities have been taking up repair and upgrade of all such bridges. While CR has 110 foot overbridges, 89 road overbridges and 19 overhead pipeline bridges, the Western Railway (WR) has 101 foot overbridges, 29 road overbridges and 4 water pipeline bridges. The Sandhurst Road rail bridge, however, does not fall under any of these, as it is an elevated railway line. It was built in 1921 by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, the predecessor to CR. It has been in operation since February 3, 1925.
Trade union sources said the railways should have carried out repairs during a mega block or at night. "Agreed that scheduling a block is not easy in the Mumbai suburban section, but working in such a manner exposes the unprofessional attitude that we have towards workers and their overall safety," said a union member.
CR remains mum
mid-day sent pictures and videos to CR officials, but they refused to comment. Railway staffers claimed there was no safety lapse, and that there is enough safe space below the platform for the workers to take shelter under. "There are gangmen posted on either side of the rails to whistle and alert the working teams, and there is absolutely no element of safety lapse," said a staffer.
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