The southern section of the suburban rail network in the city is turning out to be the deadliest of the three rail lines.
According to government railway police (GRP) figures, 465 persons died along the tracks on the Chennai Beach-Chengalpattu stretch between January and November this year.
Around 440 persons died on the Chennai Central-Arakkonam stretch on the west line while about 160 persons died on the north line between Korukuppet and Gummudipoondi during the same period.
Last year, 402 persons lost their lives on the 56-km Chennai Beach-Chengalpattu stretch. Talking on cellphones when crossing tracks seems to be the commonest cause of such accidents, an official said.
On an average, every fifteen minutes, a train passes through the suburbs on this stretch. During rush hours, the frequency comes down to 10 minutes. Around 290 suburban services are operated between Chennai Beach and Chengalpattu every day. Hundreds of long distance trains run between Chennai and the southern districts via Chengalpattu.
Lack of fence or side barricade at most stations, especially near congested settlements along Chromepet, Pallavaram, Tambaram and Paranur, result in deaths on tracks.
“Students and office-goers under 30 years of age constitute nearly 90 per cent of such victims. As most of them are either talking on cellphones or wearing headphones, they don’t hear an approaching train until it is too late,” said a GRP officer.
“Fewer human settlements along the tracks on the north and west suburban lines restrict trespassing. Also, there are fewer services on these stretches as compared to the Chennai Beach-Chengalpattu sector, which is probably why the number of deaths is low,” the officer said.
In an effort to prevent such accidents, GRP has identified 15 danger zones on the southern line, within city limits. These include the stations at Mambalam, Kodambakkam, Guindy, Tambaram, Tiruvallur and Arakkonam where it has been suggested that parapet walls be built along the tracks to prevent trespassing.
Further, all drivers of local trains have been asked to reduce speed to 20 kmph when they approach such accident-prone stations.
The drivers must decrease speed of the train about 200 metres ahead of the station. Currently, most suburban trains run at a speed of 60 kmph, an official said.