Railway Minister Piyush Goyal directed officials “to spend whatever is necessary” for passenger safety as he announced steps to prevent disasters such as a stampede at a busy Mumbai suburban train station that killed 23 people. Goyal chaired marathon meetings with railway officials in the past two days as the stampede revived safety questions engulfing one of the world’s biggest public transportation networks reeling from a series of fatal crashes, poor infrastructure and funds, and red tape. “To eliminate bureaucracy and delays, I have empowered GMs (general managers) to spend whatever is necessary on safety,” he tweeted.
The tragedy happened on an overcrowded stairwell to a pedestrian bridge that connects Elphinstone Road with Parel as at least four trains pulled in simultaneously at both stations and commuters dashed for shelter from sudden rain. Officials said 22 people were crushed and suffocated to death when fellow commuters fell on them in the narrow foot overbridge (FOB). More than three dozen were injured and one of them died in hospital. The 35-year-old man, Satyendra Kumar Kanojia, was one of the two critical patients and died because of heavy neurological damage, doctors at KEM Hospital said.
The government will bring foot overbridges and platforms within a mandatory safety plan with no budget restrictions. Such bridges are until now considered a passenger amenity, thereby given less priority despite being used by millions of commuters. “We are turning a 150 year old convention on its head, hereafter, FOBs (foot overbridges) will be deemed mandatory not a passenger amenity,” Goyal said in a tweet.