Bombay HC sought to end the blame game played by both authorities.
Mumbai: In a bid to put an end to the blame game played by the railways and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), whenever a tragedy surrounding the foot overbridges (FOB) or road overbridge (ROB) occurs, the Bombay high court has directed the railways and BMC to conduct a joint audit of all the 487 ROBs and FOBs in the city and fix responsibility on civic and railway officials. The court also directed the State and Union to take cognizance of the bludgeoning population and plan the public transport system accordingly by exploring the possibility of water transport.
The court issued the directions while hearing the public interest litigation (PIL) on the Elphinstone bridge stampede that left 22 dead and many more injured. The directions were also in light of the recent Gokhale rail over bridge collapse at Andheri which left one dead and four injured.
A division bench of Justices Naresh Patil and Girish Kulkarni while hearing the PIL sought to know from the petitioner and the respondent authorities about the status of various directions issued by the bench with regards to the Elphin-stone bridge stampede last year.
The counsel for the railways informed the court of the construction of two bridges, one by the army and another by the railways to take care of the peak hour rush which resulted in the stampede.
However when the petitioner’s advocate pointed out that there was no system in place to assess the life and durability of the various FOB’s and ROB’s, the additional solicitor general Anil Singh informed the court that an audit had been carried out last year and reports of the same had been maintained. But in light of the Gokhale bridge collapse, the court rebuked the submissions.
The court then directed the railway and BMC to conduct a joint audit of all the ROB’s and FOB’s rather than putting the onus of maintaining the bridges, skywalks and flyovers on each other and ensure that tragedies and loss of lives was averted.
The next hearing has been kept after three weeks to assess the progress of the work based on the court’s directions.
More manpower to manage rush
After hearing a complaint about the absence of a system to manage crowds during peak hours, the bench accepted the suggestion of the petitioner’s advocate to increase the number of police personnel to manage the crowds. The bench agreed that the presence of policemen on the walkways would ensure that people did not resort to unruly behaviour which most often leads to chaos and a tragedy similar to that of Elphinstone bridge stampede wherein the pushing and shoving by commuters wanting to exit the bridge had led to people falling and getting trampled. The bench directed the railways to increase policemen on bridges to address the issue.
Mostly safe structures, says CR audit
Central Railway (CR) conducted a safety audit of Carnac bridge in south Mumbai, Patripul in Kalyan, foot overbridges (FOBs) in Thane, Kalyan, Lokmanya Tilak Nagar, the road overbridge (ROB) at Ghatkopar and the 60-metre-tall National Rayon Corporation (NRC) chimney near Ambivali station and found most of the structures to be safe. But it has decided to raze the FOB in Kalyan as well as remove the pipeline crossing over and above the tracks at Kopari bridge as they are no longer in use.
Officials said that inspection also found a pipeline crossing over the tracks near Nahur station to be safe, but the iron pillars were rusted.
It has suggested that the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation set up a height gauge at Patripul in Kalyan. CR will construct a retaining wall at Sandhurst Road close to Thane bound track, as it collapsed due on July 9. It also told Mhada to take steps for the safety of the building, which is close to the tracks.
A senior CR officer of CR said, “We have asked NRC to use the wire and strengthen its chimney as a precautionary measure. However, the chimney is safe. We have also asked the MSRDC to not allow heavy vehicles on the Patripul creek. The height gauge will be also installed.”
The CR had already razed the FoB around 200 metres from Tilak Nagar station towards Vashi end. The FOB, which was constructed in 1989, has not been in use after the Santacruz-Chembur Link Road ROB was constructed.