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Overcrowded and often unsafe travel in Mumbai's suburban trains will now be smoother, secure and passenger friendly. The Modi government is making all-out efforts to streamline operations of Mumbai's lifeline: the local trains which carry over 80 lakh commuters every day.
As per the government's mega plans for suburban railways, platforms would be extended to add more coaches in trains(from existing 12 to 16 bogies) and hi-technology signal system would be introduced to increase frequencies of the suburban trains. For recurring 'trespassing deaths' on the tracks, 99.60 km of periphery walls have been erected along the railway lines and local stations. Efforts are on to add more foot overbridges and escalators at stations identified as ones where accidental deaths are more likely to occur.
In an interview to IANS, Director General Railway Protection Force(RPF) Arun Kumar said that the Railways have been more concerned about accidental deaths resulting from trespassing, hitting electric poles and slipping between gaps in platforms and coaches.
"Fifty-two vulnerable points at different railway stations in Mumbai were identified by us where frequent accidents have been occurring. The major cause of accidental deaths was trespassing on tracks. So we decided to add more FOBs(foot overbridges). In the past few months 32 FOBs, 42 escalators and 23 lifts have been added in Central and Western Railway stations while 36 FOBs, 72 escalators and 40 lifts are being constructed. In addition, RPF has conducted 209 passenger awareness camps highlighting 'Dos and Don'ts' to avoid accidents," said Arun Kumar.
Considered as Mumbai's lifeline, the overcrowded suburban trains have often been blamed for accidents. On an average more than 3,000 Mumbaikars fall prey to accidents on tracks. Between January and June 2019, 260 passengers died because of trespassing, 100 died after falling off trains and one person died after falling in the gap between platform and coach.
"In comparison to last year's figures, there has been a decrease of 23 per cent in deaths due to falling from train, 7 per cent decrease in trespassing and over 50 per cent in fall in gap between platform and coaches," said Arun Kumar, adding: "Yes, every life is precious to us. And we are making all possible efforts to prevent such a loss."
Electric poles erected along railway tracks have also been a cause of accidents. Between January and March 2018, 18 passengers died after they were hit by these poles.
"The Railways finally decided to remove the electric poles and opted for underground wiring. During the last six months only one person has died after being hit by an electric pole. We are also trying to introduce the queue management system to control the rush of passengers, particularly during the peak hours," said Arun Kumar, a 1985 batch IPS officer.
The Railways are looking at the possibility of adding more coaches to the overcrowded local trains which now have fewer bogies as several railway platforms do not allow for longer trains. The platforms would be extended to accommodate trains having around 16 coaches.
The height of platforms is being raised to prevent deaths from falling in the gap between platform and coach. For the past couple of years, the Railways have been focusing on expediting infrastructure projects including maintenance work in key areas. Government public sector undertakings have come forward to fund Railways for meeting its target.
"Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has been the source of our inspiration. His efforts have enabled Railways to meet deadlines for completing important infrastructure projects," the DG said.