Deaths on tracks mar the journey on Mumbai’s lifeline

At least nine people died and 10 were injured every day between January 1, 2010 and May 31, 2013 on the suburban railway system, dubbed Mumbai’s lifeline. According to the Government Railway Police’s (GRP) annual data on accidental deaths and injuries, 12,136 deaths and 13,541 injury cases have been reported on Central Railway (CR) and Western Railway (WR) since 2010.

More than 75 lakh passengers commute daily on suburban railways, which operate nearly round the clock with 2,925 services. Around 40 lakh and 38 lakh passengers commute daily on CR and WR in 1,618 and 1,307 services respectively. While CR has recorded an increase in deaths by two per cent, WR has reported a drop by two per cent from 2010 to 2012.

Of the 3,710 deaths in 2010, 62.5 per cent were on CR while 37.5 were on WR. In 2011, of the 3,458 deaths, 62.1 per cent were on CR and 37.9 per cent on WR. In 2012, CR accounted for 64.8 per cent of 3,541 deaths while WR accounted for 35.2 per cent. Railway officers said the number of cases was higher on CR as its suburban stretch spans 120 km, while WR covers a suburban stretch of 60 km.

Similarly, from 2010 to 2012, CR registered an increase in cases of injuries from 58.3 per cent to 60.7 per cent, while WR recorded a drop from 41.7 per cent to 39.3 per cent.

Since 2010, 49 per cent of accidental injuries were due to falls from running trains, while 57 per cent of accidental deaths were due to line-crossing. The second major reason behind accidental deaths was falls from running trains, with 22 per cent cases reported since 2010. Accidental injuries also comprised injuries due to stone pelting, train surfing, electric shock and natural causes. Together, these accounted for 29 per cent of total injury cases reported since 2010.

According to S D Bagal, senior inspector, Borivali GRP, injuries sustained due to fall from trains on railway tracks were “gruesome and life threatening”.

On an average, one death and one injury case is reported every day with the Borivali GRP, which registers crime and accidents on railway tracks from Malad to Dahisar on the WR. On CR, a similar number is reported between Kurla and Mulund, Kalyan and Badlapur/Kalyan and Kasara.

Kurla GRP, which registers maximum deaths every year, reported 284 deaths due to line-crossing in 2010, 262 in 2011 and 249 in 2012. While there is a fall in deaths due to line-crossing, there has been an increase in deaths due to falls from running train. Kurla GRP reported 106 deaths in 2010, 127 in 2011 and 128 in 2012.

According to Shivaji Dhumal, senior inspector, Kurla GRP, trains get overcrowded at Kurla as Central and Harbour lines merge at the station.

“Railway lines between Kurla and Mulund are dotted with slums, resulting in rampant line-crossing. The addition of two more lines has made line-crossing even more dangerous,” Dhumal added.

At Borivali GRP, line-crossing claimed 256 lives in 2010 and 208 in 2012. Falls from trains claimed 20 lives in 2010 and 68 in 2012.

Overcrowding in trains with heavy passenger traffic from Malad to Dahisar continues to be a reason for the increase in number of deaths, said Bagal.

\Injuries due to dashes against railway poles, too, have been on the rise, with maximum cases being reported by Kurla GRP every year. Dhumal said, “Youngsters perform stunts — hanging out of a running train or travelling on its roof. In the past, suggestions have been made to temporarily halt trains to nab such persons, but it is not the best thing to do in a fast paced system.”

Kalyan GRP has witnessed an increase in deaths due to line-crossing from 222 deaths reported in 2010 to 233 in 2012. Deaths due to falls from trains reported at Kalyan GRP increased from 56 in 2010 to 82 in 2012.

At Thane GRP, the number of deaths due to line-crossing remained more or less constant with 222 in 2010 and 221 in 2012. Deaths due to falls from trains increased from 52 to 72.

Railway officers believe that trains with closed doors and projects like elevated corridors would create additional space and prevent overcrowding.

“Running trains with closed doors is possible only if there are ACs inside rakes,” said Sandeep Silas, divisional railway manager (DRM), WR. “While fifth and sixth lines on WR will create additional space to run more services, projects like Oval Maidan-Virar Elevated Corridor need to be expedited. Besides, city planners must relocate business districts towards the northern side of the city to redistribute rail traffic.”

Mukesh Nigam, DRM, CR said, “It is important to have trains in which doors can be closed to prevent passengers from falling off. Since 2010, more services have been added every year though passenger growth has been more or less constant.”

Between 2010 and 2012, WR added 97 services while CR added 154 services. Among other steps taken to curb deaths and injuries due too line-crossing are anti-trespass awareness campaigns, installation of track dividers between two parallel tracks and construction of boundary walls to prevent slums.

An AC prototype rake being manufactured at Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, is expected to be run on WR by the end of this financial year. However, induction of such rakes where the doors can be closed will be decided upon only if the prototype runs successfully.