Elphinstone Road stampede: Fatalities could have been fewer if Western Railway stopped trains

At least 20 train services stopped at Elphinstone Road while the tragedy was unfolding.

September 29, 2017 10:39 pm | Updated September 30, 2017 12:57 am IST

Commuters stand under a foot over bridge (FOB) where a stampede took place at the Elphinstone Road railway station, in Mumbai on September 29, 2017.

Commuters stand under a foot over bridge (FOB) where a stampede took place at the Elphinstone Road railway station, in Mumbai on September 29, 2017.

The number of fatalities and injuries at the Elphinstone Road railway station stampede could possibly have been significantly fewer, or even avoided altogether, if the Western Railway officials on duty at the station had shown presence of mind and taken the critical decision stopped trains from coming in to the station for short period.

The stampede began at 10.26 a.m., but for the next half-hour, until 11 a.m., Western Railway local services kept running — at least 10 up trains and 10 down trains stopped at the station during the period — disgorging even more passengers on to the platform, and from there to the foot over bridge (FOB). The crowd on the bridge had begun increasing because it was raining, and people were reluctant to step out from the shelter the FOB offered into the open street.

Malini Iyer, who was in the crush, but escaped only with scratches on her hands pushing her way through the mass of people, said, “The railway officials could have saved passengers if they have made some announcement regarding the stampede and asked passengers to avoid going towards north bridge.”


“The passengers kept coming at the bridge as train came at the platform,” says Shankar Singh, who was at the station at the time of stampede. “The passengers gathered at the bridge and everybody wanted to exit and go to their destinations.”

The FOB is narrow, and also serves the adjacent Parel station (Central Railway, Main Line), connecting both stations to each other and the roads alongside the railway lines. It can accommodate around 100 commuters at a time without getting overcrowded; but eyewitnesses say that there were more than 1,000 passengers on the FOB when the stampede happened.

In pictures: Elphinstone Road railway station stampede

Similar scenes unfold every day at rush hour in other stations like Dadar, Lower Parel and Currey Road, which serve the part of the city which once was a mills district but is now a bustling business centre with glass-fronted skyscrapers full of plush offices, homes and malls. On an average, a local train carries over 4,500 passengers during peak hours. Elphinstone Road and Parel, between them, see around 3 lakh passengers a day. The FOBs, however, have not been widened for decades, and comprehensive renovation are long overdue. Regular commuters say that the north FOB, where the stampede occurred, vibrates uncomfortably when trains pass beneath.

Former Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had approved a ₹11.86 crore spend for the widening and repair of the FOB, but the work had not started yet, with the tendering process still incomplete.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has ordered a complete safety and capacity audit of all the FOBs across the suburban train network, with a report to be submitted in 10 days.

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