Enabling Dignity of Walking in Mumbai

During the morning oce peak hour of 29th September 2017, around 24 people died and several others were injured in a stampede at Elphinstone Road Suburban Railway Station in Mumbai in what was probably the cruellest stampede in the history of urban India. The stampede happened along the staircase to the only bridge connecting Elphinstone Road Station on the Western Line and Parel Station on the Central Line. The reasons for the stampede were overcrowding on the pedestrian foot overbridge due to rain as well as the sudden swelling of the crowd due to the simultaneous arrival of four trains.

 

As a reaction to the accident, the Indian Railways identified new foot overbridges across the railway lines and some of them have already been built. However, the proposed bridges would solve only a small part of the problem as they only create more connections to the railway platforms. Accessibility to the mass transit stations from their immediate surroundings of about half a kilometre walking radius has yet to be improved. A similar accident could happen along any of the access ways to the station as there are very few options and the existing ones are narrow, cramped and often in terrible condition. There has been no concerted eŠort for improvement of station areas in the city. The structural problem of poor accessibility to mass transit stations is yet to be recognised as the actual cause of the accident.

The geography of the city is a linear urban form suitable for mass transit. Greater Mumbai is a narrow peninsula landform where the southernmost part – Mumbai Island City – continues to be the central business district; it’s about a 4- to 5-kilometre-wide land mass in the sea. The peninsula area is connected to the rest of the metropolitan region through three north-south Suburban Railway lines. The city is structured along the railway lines with high gross density of about 272 persons per hectare housing, a total of around 12.4 million people. Residential, commercial and other mixed-use developments along the suburban station areas are conducive hubs of pedestrian-oriented activities.

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