01/10/2017 9:41 AM IST | Updated 01/10/2017 9:50 AM IST

Day After 23 People Died In Mumbai Station, Piyush Goyal Defended Bullet Train, Announced Safety Measures

Too late, too little?

Shailesh Andrade / Reuters
A sandle of one of the victims of a stampede is seen below a railway station's pedestrian overbridge in Mumbai, India September 29, 2017. REUTERS/Shailesh Andrade

Mumbai--Railway Minister Piyush Goyal today announced a slew of measures for safety of commuters with a focus on foot-over bridges (FOBs) in the country, a day after 23 people died in a stampede at a crowded station in Mumbai.

He said the FOBs would now be "mandatory" at all stations. Previously, only the first FOB at a railway station was considered essential and the subsequent a passenger amenity.

Goyal announced through his verified Twitter account that FOBs would now be deemed "mandatory" and not a passenger amenity.

He chaired a nine-hour meeting with top railway officials in Mumbai to review passenger safety measures in response to the deadly accident yesterday, when a massive crowd of morning commuters stampeded on the stairwell of a narrow footbridge linking Elphinstone Road and Parel suburban railway stations.

"Eight to nine multidisciplinary teams including officials of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Thane Municipal Corporation, Kalyan Dombivili Municipal Corporation, Vasai Virar Municipal Corporation, Mira-Bhayander Municipal Corporation along with the officials of the MMRDA and police would visit all 126 stations in the city - including terminuses in the next seven days, and submit a detailed report to work on it proactively," Goyal said this evening.

"Under the leadership of Maharashtra minister Vinod Tawde, for the next one year, there would be a meeting each month, attended by all the five commissioners of municipal bodies and the commissioners of Mumbai Police and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), both the general managers of Central and Western Railways to review the works related to FOBs, removing hawkers, to ease the entry and exit points in and around station premises," he said.

"We have sanctioned a total of 92 more escalators, of which 61 would be installed on Central Railway stations, while 31 would be installed on Western Railway stations," he said, adding that if the report of the multidisciplinary teams demands then more escalators would be built.

Goyal said 20 more FOBs have been sanctioned for Central Railway and 10 for Western Railway, while 13 projects were sanctioned to widen FOBs.

Decisions regarding sanctioning FOBs, culverts, underpasses at all the A1 and A category stations across India would be taken within 30 to 35 days, Goyal said.

Forty maintenance yards across the country, including eight in Mumbai, would be upgraded, he said, adding that the remodelling yard of Kalyan station has been fast-tracked.

"For the next 18 months, general managers of the Railway zones have been delegated powers without limit for safety related issues. They shall intimate financial commissioner (FC) within a week of sanction for provision, and FC shall confirm the same within 15 days.

"In case of disagreement, the matter shall be put up to the Railway Board for final decision within the same 15 days," he added.

The minister also said he has requested the Railway Board to review its decision regarding allocations and amenities based on the population of the area, and not on the kilometre basis. He said railway officers have committed to erect a new FOB at the Elphinstone Road station within a year.

Goyal also defended the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project, which is to be built with Japanese cooperation.

"When Rajdhani trains were introduced, there were such protests by politicians. Protesters ought to think whether the countrymen need the benefits of the technology or not," he said.

The "bullet train is sustainable and safe", he said.

"Those who are opposing (the project) should answer people why they are coming in the way of Indians getting benefit of the latest technology," he said.

Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani and other officials from Central and Western Railways, Tawde, Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar, BMC chief Ajoy Mehta attended the meeting.

Shelar said the minister has taken some bold decisions.

"We are not only hopeful but also confident that now the rail-related projects will see the light of the day that will ease the commute," he added.