ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Fatal Planning

Will urban planners learn from the death of 23 rail passengers in Mumbai?

On the morning of 29 September, Mumbai learnt with mounting horror that 22 persons—the 23rd succumbed later—were crushed to death on a railway foot overbridge at Elphinstone Road Station on the Western Railway zone of Mumbai’s suburban railway network. A majority of the huge crowd of commuters would have been heading towards the offices and commercial complexes that have come up in the past decade on the land of the now closed mills in the area. An unexpected bout of heavy rain led to a jam at the exit point of the narrow bridge that turned into a deathtrap as commuters from incoming trains joined the mass. The incident brought to the fore failures at various levels, with the prime ones being the lack of a responsive disaster management mechanism and a lack of planning that dovetails land use with the needs of an increasing commuting population. These are failures that not only plague a city that has grown inured to many human-made disasters, but also most urban centres in the country, and its lessons would be relevant too, if they are taken to heart.

The financial capital of the country and its immediate suburbs reached a saturation point almost a decade ago. However, the public transport system linking the new residential hubs in the extended suburbs to the commercial spaces in south and central Mumbai has simply not kept pace. These spaces also suffer from heavy vehicular and pedestrian traffic congestion that is not helped by the lack of coordination between the various bodies like the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the railway authorities. More metro and monorail stations, which will become operational soon, will only add to the congestion. Again, Mumbai’s new proposed development plan focuses on providing employment space for 80 lakh persons and is depending on additional metro systems and the controversial coastal road project to take the potential load off the rail network. This, say urban transport experts, is an unrealistic assumption and doomed to be outrun by increasing human and vehicular traffic. The authorities also failed to heed experts’ objections to the building of a monorail in the eastern suburbs, which seems to be in no position to take the passenger load off the trains. Similarly, the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC) has failed to meet its larger aim of enhancing the suburban rail transportation capacity.

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Updated On : 7th Oct, 2017

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