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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

gory EMU train accident ~ could it have been averted ?!?

Can you imagine what these are ? These are hanging concrete balls installed in Indonesian Capital of Jakarta. Why would somebody put these big sized concrete balls ringed together ~  difficult to tell!! ~ can it be intended to cause some malice ?  ~  24th July 2018 would remain a blotted dark day in the history of EMU trains in the metropolis.

one’s heart bleeds on reading gory details of the train accident at St Thomas Mount station yesterday in Chennai .. ..  accident !! ~ the  word often obstructs the study of prevention.  The word suggests an event that takes place without foresight or expectations, yet such events as a group are not random and do not occur by chance; they can be expected to happen, even if the time, place, and precise circumstances cannot be foreseen. When the word is used to describe human error, it frequently does so in a way that inhibits examination of the factors contributing to the error and consequent injury. The public usually associates the word with an event, not with the damage that results. Sad, deep sense of anguish and no words can ever soothe those victims !

In Mumbai, the  abrupt closure of Lower Parel’s Delisle bridge, a key east-west link, on Tuesday morning led to such a concentration of pedestrians in the lane under it that for over two hours it seemed that a stampede was imminent. So congested is the area that other than the narrow Datta Ahire Marg, there are no public pathways to cross over into the Lower Parel office district, especially for the hordes of commuters who alight at Currey Road station, travelling from the eastern suburbs. For residents of buildings along the lane, the scenes were reminiscent of what occurred on a similarly confined stretch not so long ago, not so far away: The death of 23 people on the Elphinstone Road footbridge last September. Although there was no rain on Tuesday, the bigger worry for commuters is that it could take at least two years for the Delisle bridge—declared corroded and dangerous—to be reconstructed, according to Western Railway. 

Back home in Chennai, tragedy struck rush-hour commuters on Tuesday when at least four men travelling on the footboard of a suburban train were killed and five others were injured after they slammed against a concrete fence near the track at St Thomas Mount Railway Station. The accident took place at 8.22am, police said.

The first rail chugged on April 16, 1853 from Bombay to Thane – Bori Bunder to Thane.  3 years later in 1856, [July 1, 1856]  the first train of South India ran from Royapuram to Wallajah linking Arcot, the titular capital of Nawab of Carnatic, near Ranipet.  Besides the major Railways Stations of Chennai Central and Central Egmore, the metropolis of Chennai has commuter rail system operating Electric Multiple Units in 3 lines – Chennai Beach to Tambaram; Chennai Central to Thiruvallur and Chennai Central Gummidipoondi.  In addition there is the MRTS, presently operating from Chennai Beach to Velachery and Chennai Metro on two lines. 

Chennai has a complex railway network ~ popularly known as Electric trains, it is ‘Electrical multiple units (EMUs)’ operating on alternating current (AC) drawn from over-head cables. To recall some more history, the meter gauge suburban service was inaugurated on April 2, 1931.  Then came the gauge conversion project by 1999 there were two MG and one BG line.

of the sad incident, witnesses told police that as the train was rolling on to platform 4, normally reserved for express trains, several commuters hanging on to the footboard in the compartment next to the engine smashed into the concrete fencing wall built on platform 3 and fell to the ground. Four of them were crushed to death under the train that was still moving fairly fast. Railway authorities said shoulder bags of several commuters travelling footboard hit the cement fence, and 10 passengers fell to the ground.

A snag in the overhead electrical line had forced them to run slow local trains on the fast lines meant for express services, said southern railway officials. The problem was reported around 7.10am and delayed trains plying between Chennai Beach and Tambaram by about 30 minutes. This, officials said, led to overcrowding of trains and the Chennai Beach-Tirumalpur train, which was involved in the accident, had to be diverted on to platform 4. Staff manning the control room of the state’s emergency service provider, Emergency Management Research Institute (EMRI), received the first call by 8.24am when a commuter said several people were injured in a train accident at St Thomas Mount. The closest 108 ambulance reached the spot at 8.32am. Nine more ambulances arrived in the next few minutes.

The cement fence separating platform 3 and the track at St Thomas Mount Railway Station has accounted for at least 10 deaths in the last one month, say railway sources. All those killed were leaning out while travelling on the footboard and were hit by the fence, they added. Almost all of them were youngsters, including a youth in his 20s returning home after his first day at work.  How sad .. ..

Slow suburban trains generally stop at platforms 1 and 2 at the station. Platform 3 is a virtual island, separated from platform 4 by a track. Not used by passengers on a regular basis, speeding ex trains and fast local trains veer past these platforms. For operational exigencies, like on Tue morning, slow trains are allowed on to platforms 3 or 4, TOI reports.  The cement fence over there is to avoid commuters  from getting sucked out by the pressure created speeding train or falling on the  track,”  a railway official is quoted as saying.  They sought to debunk the theory that the fence was built in violation of railway standards. The distance to be maintained between the track and any permanent or temporary structure nearby, called schedule of dimensions (SOD), varies for different sections, for example along curves or dif- St. ferent types of rolling Mount stock, like wagons or passenger coaches, he said. “For the Chennai suburban train network, the SOD is 2.1351 metres. The structure at St Thomas Mount station was well beyond this distance. It was safe,” the official said. This means the entire body of each of the commuter including hands and their shoulder bags could have been outside the train during the run, causing them to get entangled with the fence.

What it was technically, it practically has caused deaths and should not continue – everyone of us is to blame – commuters are negligent; the backpacks are a virtual nospace zone for others risking its carriers and Railways should well have known, how the system operates and what safe distance actually is ~ sad, that poor planning infrastructure has caused so many deaths, all of which perhaps could have been avoided if all of them chose to be vigilant and not negligent.  There can never be any justification for footboarding stating lesser frequency or that people cannot afford share autos or cabs, have no other option but travel worse than “cattle class”. Human lives are precious and the accident is a cause of deep concern.

With heavy heart – S. Sampathkumar
24th July 2018.
PS :  The picture that you saw at the start of the post are large-sized concrete balls strung  above railway lines to stop 'roof riders'. Railways in Indonesia have hung these concrete balls above train tracks at select places in order to prevent commuters from riding on carriage roofs. The first balls were installed just above carriage-height near a station outside the capital, Jakarta. Previous attempts to deter roof riders included spraying roofs with paint, spreading oil on carriages and hiring musicians to perform safety songs. Reportedly, all those initiatives failed and this is hoped to be the ultimate deterrent. Roof riders also face the possibility of imprisonment. The authorities there believe, that these balls would deliver serious blows to the head if they didn't knock a person off the roof of a train - will be enough to deter 'train surfers'. 

Looks cruel and barbaric but that menace of voluntarily endangering life has to end somehow.

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