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Monday, October 26, 2015

folly of people crossing Railway tracks - despite so many fatal accidents

I have been posting regularly on MRTS aka Parakkum rail events.  There exist North, South and Western lines……….the Southern line runs along GST Road – originates from Chennai Beach to Tambaram – extending to Chengalpattu / Kanchipuram and Tirumalpur.  It is electric trains – commonly Chennai Suburban Railways, just as there exists  MRTS and the brand new Chennai Metro. 

Chennai has a complex railway network. The system uses electrical multiple units (EMUs) operating on alternating current (AC) drawn from over-head cables through the catenary system.  Trains on  Beach–Tambaram section operate at a high frequency, yet are over-crowded.  Web searches indicate that in 1920s, the British government felt the necessity of connecting the northern part of the city, which was mainly commercial, with the chiefly residential south-western parts.  In early 1930, the Govt  decided to electrify the lines, including the mainline starting from Egmore. 

In Dec 1930,  the first consignment of 25 electric carriages from England was received by the railway.  The  first electrically operated rail service in Madras began on 2 April 1931 between Madras Beach and Tambaram, which became the earliest metre gauge to be electrified in the country.  In those days,  Madras suburban service had  3-car EMUs which were notable in having coupled bogies across cars, thereby making the entire 3-car formation a rigid unit.

This line has transformed the way people of Madras commute and land prices nearer the track has sky-rocketed over the years.  It is not only about development but also safety. Sadly, many accidents get reported on this line – though there are manned level-crossings and many overbridges and foot-bridges having come up over the years. 

Today’s Times of India, Chennai edition carries a grim reminder of the tragic situation.  A day after suburban trains ran over two pedestrians in the city , and three days after four people died due to train-hits, on Sunday people continued to risk death by crossing the tracks instead of using the foot overbridge (FOB) at Chromepet railway station.

Railways officials are at their wit's end over the continuing deaths on the tracks due to people crossing the tracks, often while distracted by speaking on their cellphones or after muting out all sound with music on headphones. Though there is a foot over-bridge connecting both sides of the station, pedestrians prefer to cross the tracks rather than take the effort to climb the bridge.

Alex, a school student, said he doesn't like to walk all the way to the foot overbridge and then climb up its steps. “I'd rather just take the short cut,“ he said. “I try to be careful while crossing the tracks.  Vasuki, who is new to Chromepet, says she noticed the over-bridge at the railway station. “But I don't want to walk all the way just to cross over,” she said. Other people who cross the tracks say they do not have much of a choice because the subway that connects GST Road and Radha Nagar has not yet opened. The corporation, which is building the subway in place of two level crossings near the station, has faced opposition to the project from residents and shopkeepers who say it will damage their houses and shops.

Another railway crossing near the station, which connects GST Road with roads on the other side of the station, is the route that students of Vaishnav College usually take. Chromepet station gateman J Manoharan said he blows a whistle every time a train is going to pass by to alert the pedestrians. “But most college students don't pay attention as they are using their phones,“ he said. “Several people don't even look both ways to see is a train is approaching,“ he said. A lack of railway police squads to monitor safety and prevent people from crossing the tracks makes the situation worse, he said.

There are compound walls around Chromepet railway station to prevent pedestrians from crossing at points other than the railway crossings. “Six months ago, we distributed a notice to pedestrians, giving them instructions to cross the railway tracks in a safe manner but they do not pay heed,” a railways official said.  The railway police have conducted several awareness campaigns at Chromepet and other suburban railway stations but without much success.

It continues to remain a mystery as to why, people spring forward to meet disasters ~from simple negligence to utter disregard for lives. Sad to read the continuing stories of people losing their lives on railway tracks.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

26th Oct 2015.

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