munbai suburban railway – deaths and oercrowding

The Mumbai suburban railway functions with open doors.  the doors do not open and close automatically.

The railways are overcrowded.  more than 400 persons die on the tracks every year and another 4000 are injured every year on the tracks.

In the last 15 years more than 50,00 deaths have been reported.

The railways accept that about 35 % of these injuries are due to falling out of the overcrowded train.  The mumbai suburban train is peculiar in that it has various reservations in its compartments. = first class ladies, first class gents, second class ladies, second class gents, handicapped, luggage = 6 different classes =

if there were no class,  as in most metros, the world over,  the extreme overcrowding between the doors (in the second class) would not occur and less persons would fall out of the running train.

60 percent of the train space is sued for seating passengers, and only 40 percent is available for standing passengers.  the result is that a super crush load occurs.  the density of passengers between the doors of the second class male compartment is a stupendous 16 passengers per sq meter.  this is confirmed by the railways, the MMRDA and the world bank.

The minority (<33%) of passengers are affected by this crushing load, while the majority passengers have a density of 6 per sq meter.

A PIL (public interest litigation) means listening to the voice of the voiceless and giving access to the poor, the marginalized, and the weak.  The Mumbai high court (in response to PIL 50/2008) suggested that seats be reduced to four per row (from six per row at present.  This would reduce the density between the doors to about 11 per sq meter.  This would enable some of those standing at the door to come inside the train and improve the safety of passengers.

The railways took a survey to see if this would be popular.  Naturally the majority did not like the idea.  They were travelling in crowded trains (6 per sq meter) and did not want more overcrowding.  Using feedback from the majority is depriving the minority of their rights and safety.  Thus the railways continue to have a policy where 1/3 of passengers travel with a density of 16 per sq meter.

The second class male passengers are about 2/3 of all passengers.  yet they are allotted less than half of the 12 compartments available.  The railways feel it is more important to have compartment reserved for carrying luggage (in peak hours) than solving the severe inhuman overcrowding between the doors of the second class compartment.

The problem of overcrowding is a question of redistribution of scarce resources.  it is also a question of improving the number and frequency of trains.  i.e. re-distribute the cake or increase the size of the cake.

The inability of the railways to address this problem leads to thousands of persons falling out of over-crowded trains every year.  Several commentators have opined that the overall density of the train is more in japan, but the distribution is more even, and doors are closed using pushers. the result is that there has been only one death in several decades of service in Japan.

The quality of services on the harbour line has improved.  earlier there were about 8 trains to New Mumbai per hour with 9-cars each.  Now there are about 12 trains per hour with 12-cars each (on the same tracks). The result, is that the number of deaths on the harbour line has dropped dramatically  especially at Kurla.

On the other hand, the railways themselves state that the population has grown explosively at stations beyond Thana. the services have not grown correspondingly.  the result, the railways state, is that the number of casualties are now maximum aat Thana station and stations beyond Thana.

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