Indian Railways News

Police Checking CCTV Footage, Mobile Videos To Probe Cause Of Stampede

Police are examining CCTV footage and also the video clips shot by onlookers to find out what led to the deadly stampede on a railway footbridge at the Elphinstone Road station in Central Mumbai today morning.

“An Accidental Death Report (ADR) has been registered at the Dadar police station as the incident took place in the jurisdiction of city police,” assistant commissioner of police Sunil Deshmukh told PTI.

Police have got hold of CCTV footage of the bridge, he said. “We are also approaching some eye-witnesses to get information about the incident,” he added.
Some onlookers shot videos of the incident on mobile phones and police are seeking help from them for the investigation, he said.

A Railway Protection Force official had said that the footbridge got overcrowded and became slippery due to rain, which caused panic.

“Due to sudden rain, people waited at the station. When the rain stopped, there was chaos as people rushed out,” railways spokesperson Anil Saxena had said.

 Police also suspected that a short-circuit with a loud sound near the bridge led to panic

 

Money For Bullet Train, Not A Mumbai Bridge: Shiv Sena’s Sharp Attack

BJP ally Shiv Sena joined the opposition to launch a scathing attack on the railway ministry for the rush-hour stampede that killed 22 commuters in Mumbai today, saying the central government didn’t have money to spend on a bridge used by poor commuters but “gave Rs. 30,000 crores in one day” for the bullet trains.

Sena lawmaker Sanjay Raut said its leaders had been writing to the railway ministry to seek repairs. “How many times did our MP go to the railway ministry… You have money for bullet trains, but not for repairing the bridge,” he said.

The Shiv Sena had been one of the sharpest critics of the Rs. 1,08,000 crore bullet train that India started to build this year. The Sena has argued that the high-speed train – which will run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai – did not really fit into the needs of the country.

“You let the poor passengers die…and for moneyed passengers, you talk about bullet trains,” said Sanjay Raut, demanding prosecution of the “railway ministry” for what he described as a “massacre”.

There were more than the usual people on the bridge at the time, waiting for the rain to end. Then, four trains came at the same time.

Due to the rain, a few commuters slipped, which led to the stampede. There were also rumours that the British-era bridge – that commuters said shakes every time a train passes – is falling.

Expressing shock and anguish at the death of so many people, Congress president Sonia Gandhi called “a man-made” and avoidable disaster. “Such accidents could have been avoided had there been proper planning and concern for safety issues,” she said.

Responding to the bars, Minister of State for Railways, Manoj Sinha, said it was wrong to link the tragedy to the bullet train project. “Please don’t link this to bullet trains. No one should politicise this event,” he said.

Mumbai Stampede: Family Of Victims To Get Rs. 10 Lakh Compensation

The kin of people, who died in a stampede at a railway foot over bridge or FOBs in Mumbai this morning, will get a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh each, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said.

Making an announcement at the site of the incident, Mr Goyal said the Railway Ministry as well as the Maharashtra government would provide an ex gratia of Rs. 5 lakh each to the kin of those who died in the incident.

“The state government has announced an ex-gratia of Rs. 5 lakh for the next of kin of deceased, while a similar amount has been announced by the Railway Ministry as well,” Mr Goyal said.

He said that Rs. 1 lakh would be given to the grievously injured persons and Rs. 50,000 to those who suffered minor injuries in the incident.

He also announced a complete ‘safety and capacity’ audit of all the FOBs across the suburban train network.

Speaking at the KEM hospital in Mumbai, Mr Goyal said an inquiry report on the incident will come in 10 days.

The minister, who reached Mumbai this morning for the scheduled inauguration of 100 additional suburban services in the financial capital, cancelled all his previous engagements in view of the tragedy.

 Terming the incident as “unfortunate”, Mr Goyal said budget to build a new bridge at the Elphinstone Road bridge was already sanctioned and the tendering process was underway.

At least 22 persons were killed and over 30 injured in a rush hour stampede on a narrow foot overbridge (FOB) linking Elphinstone Road and Parel suburban stations during heavy rain today morning.

The tragedy took place around 10.40 am when the FOB, used by lakhs of people to commute to the commercial area with high-end corporate and media offices, was heavily crowded, a police official said.

A Letter, 100 Tweets Had Warned About Mumbai Bridge Where 22 Were Killed

A city that will soon have a bullet train doesn’t even have a safe railway bridge, commented angry residents in Mumbai after a stampede left 22 dead and over 30 wounded this morning.

The bridge connecting the busy Elphinstone Road and Parel train stations is always overcrowded, and over the years, there have been multiple warnings of a disaster waiting to happen.

 Many had tweeted their concern. This tweet tagging former Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over a year ago was almost prophetic.

Four trains arrived around the same time, and a huge crowd tried to get out. The bridge was already crowded after sudden, heavy rain that had people scurrying for cover. Some say a loud bang after a short circuit led to panic. A witness said there were rumours of the old bridge collapsing. Within moments, many were crushed and injured.

 Hours later, the Railways Minister tweeted that bids had been called today for a new, wider bridge that had been sanctioned last year.

“People do not need an expensive bullet train…first repair these bridges that we use every day,” said a survivor.

Among the most cutting political reactions to the tragedy came from the ruling BJP’s ally Shiv Sena.

“You have money for bullet trains, but not for repairing the bridge…You let the poor passengers die…and for moneyed passengers, you talk about bullet trains,” said the Sena’s Sanjay Raut, calling the stampede a public massacre.

Arvind Sawant, a Sena parliamentarian, had written to Suresh Prabhu last year requesting repair work on the bridge.

In his reply in February 2016, Mr Prabhu had assured that the bridge would be extended and widened. He had also cited “paucity of finances, operational constraints or other compelling circumstances” for the inability to respond to such requests.

Over a year later, no work has been done on the bridge. Mr Sawant said today: “This is not just negligence. It’s too soft a term to use. This is delinquency.”

Piyush Goyal, who took over the Railway Ministry earlier this month after a series of train accidents, said: “I have issued directions for safety and capacity audit of foot over bridges in Mumbai where there is congestion. Wherever there is a need for foot over bridges to be widened, we will do it immediately on high priority.”

Overcrowding has caused many deaths on Mumbai’s local train network, according to an Observer Research Foundation report. In the past six months, close to 1,600 people have been killed; most of them fell off trains and a few died while crossing railway tracks.

Minister of State for Railways, Manoj Sinha, said the incident does not raise any questions about the structural safety or design of the bridge.

‘When A Mob Panics, You Can’t Think’: Survivor On Mumbai Stampede

A Mumbai commuter who survived the stampede that killed 22 this morning, describes how she kept herself calm amid “panic and chaos and an insane crowd” on a railway bridge at Elphinstone station after just a 20-minute rain. When she somehow managed to come out, she saw bodies.

Shruti Lokre was on the overbridge and saw the crowd suddenly increasing until she couldn’t breathe properly. “It was just a 20-minute rainfall that made people halt. It is a British-era construction that shakes every time a train passes. There was no exit for us, the crowd was carrying you,” she told NDTV on the phone.

“The crowd was increasing, there was no help…We couldn’t breathe, we were falling on each other, there was panic. When a mob panics, you can’t think. I am discounting all the groping because I had to survive. We were trying to get out. There was lack of information and lack of crowd management, then a rumour that the bridge is falling, the bridge is breaking,” she shared.

In tweets, Ms Lokre said: “Before I realised, I was a part of that stampede. Saw bodies being taken out.”

 The stampede took place around 10.30 am, when four trains arrived at the same time and a crowd surged over the narrow bridge connecting the Elphinstone Road and Parel stations. Sudden heavy rain made a bad situation worse, as a few slipped, leading to the tragedy.

Ms Lokre tweeted: “The only way to not give up on hope was to give hope to someone else. It’s gonna be alright, we will make it. Breathe, keep breathing, look that guy is helping us. Don’t worry, I am here. We are in it together. Just few more minutes. This!”

She also commented: “You don’t realise when the mob turns into a stampede. It happens in front of you, you become a part of it. Panic and chaos and insane crowd.”

Railways Minister Piyush Goyal has ordered an inquiry. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has announced Rs. 5 lakh compensation to the families of deceased and all the medical expenses of the injured will be borne by government.

Elphinstone Stampede Updates: 22 Dead, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Uddhav Thackeray Visit KEM Hospital

At least 22 people have been killed and over 30 seriously injured in a stampede that broke out at a narrow foot overbridge near a local train station in Mumbai after heavy rain this morning. The incident took place around 10.30 am during rush hour near a ticket window between Parel and Elphinstone stations. Many events coincided to produce a tragedy that many say could have been avoided, had successive governments heeded warnings. Four trains arrived around the same time, and a huge crowd tried to get out. The bridge was already crowded after sudden, heavy rain that had people scurrying for cover. Some say a loud bang after a short circuit led to panic. A witness said there were rumours of the old bridge collapsing. Within moments, many were crushed and injured.

22 Dead, Many Injured In Stampede Near Mumbai’s Elphinstone Station

Twenty-two people including a child were killed and over 30 seriously wounded in a rush-hour stampede in Mumbai that broke out when thousands took a narrow railway bridge connecting two stations after heavy rain. Phone videos taken by witnesses show a crowd on the British-era bridge and people climbing over the railing and hanging onto it precariously. Moments later, bodies are piled up on the stairs, pressing against the railing.

The stampede took place around 10.30 am on the tiny bridge between the Elphinstone Road and Parel stations, which are among Mumbai’s busiest. Witnesses say four trains rolled in at the same time and a large crowd poured into the bridge that was already bursting with people taking shelter from a sudden, heavy downpour. A few commuters slipped, and people fell on them.

“People on the bridge were in a rush to get down, while those who had arrived on suburban trains were making their way up,” said Kishore Thakkar, a commuter.

“The crowd was increasing …We couldn’t breathe, we were falling on each other, there was panic. There was no exit. There was also a rumour that the bridge is falling, the bridge is breaking,” shared Shruti Lokre, who survived the horror.

 Visuals after the stampede showed multiple bodies and attempts to revive them. Passengers and local people were seen carrying bodies down the bridge. Footwear was scattered next to the bridge.

“The overbridge of Elphinstone station was overcrowded and due to rain it got slippery too. This caused panic and resulted in the stampede,” said Atul Shrivastav, inspector general of the Railway Protection Force.

The police are investigating reports that a short-circuit caused a loud sound near the bridge and led to panic and chaos.

Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, who was in Mumbai today, has ordered an inquiry led by a top railway safety official. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited the injured in the hospital late on Friday night and said a probe will be ordered.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted condolences.

The two stations get much of Mumbai’s local train commuter traffic as there are a large number of offices in the area. Security personnel are usually posted for crowd management at the bridge.

Angry commuters and residents said the bridge is too old and narrow and not strong enough to take the busy sector. “It was a disaster waiting to happen,” remarked a local resident, saying that the bridge has been overcrowded for years and there have been multiple demands for more railway bridges for the area.

Many on social media targeted the bullet train project to link Mumbai with Ahmedabad launched earlier this month. Tweets urged the government to fund basic rail upgrades instead.

Alstom and Siemens Rail Deal runs into French political concerns

French politicians voiced concerns on Tuesday that a planned multibillion dollar merger of the rail assets of Alstom and Siemens could give the German company the upper hand.

Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that the French company plans to pay shareholders a special dividend if the deal does go through.

Siemens is expected to opt for a deal with Alstom rather an alternative with Canada’s Bombardier, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Siemens Mobility is set to be merged into Alstom, in which Siemens would hold 50 percent plus one share, while the chief executive would be Alstom’s current boss Henri-Poupart Lafarge.

The likely transaction has political ramifications, since the French state owns around 20 percent of Alstom.

A special dividend would even out the value of Siemens and Alstom, which has too much cash on its balance sheet, to smooth the intended 50-50 joint venture, one of the sources said.

“Will there be a special dividend? Yes,” said the second person.

Siemens and Alstom are strong in high-speed intercity trains with their ICE and TGV models.

Siemens is also the leader in signalling technology, while Bombardier – whose transportation headquarters are in Berlin – is stronger in commuter and light-rail trains.

Siemens stands to gain control of Alstom’s main business, since all of Alstom’s divisions deal with the railways and transportation industries.

SIGNS OF BACKLASH

Several politicians and French trade union activists expressed concerns over France losing control of its TGV high-speed train – a symbol of national pride that has highlighted French engineering skill – and over possible job losses.

Shares in Alstom, which had rallied in recent sessions on anticipation of a deal, slipped 0.25 percent while Siemens shares were broadly flat.

“The problem is that at the end of the day, it would likely be a Siemens company, although we still need clarification on the capital structure,” said Prime Partners fund manager Francois Savary, whose firm holds Siemens shares.

French right-wing politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan criticised the likely deal on Tuesday as being more favourable to Germany than France, as did far-right politician Nicolas Bay, the National Front’s secretary general.

“The Franco-German partnership must not result in the eradication of French industry!” Bay said on Twitter.

Eric Woerth, a member of the right-wing Republicans’ party, voiced similar views on his Twitter account.

“Is this now the end of Alstom? Will TGV become German? Why does the government accept such an imbalance?”, he tweeted.

A tie-up between the two – aimed at creating a European champion in the railway sector similar to Airbus in aviation – would represent a reconciliation of sorts between Siemens and Alstom.

Alstom snubbed the German company in 2014 to sell its energy division to General Electric in a deal that also saw Paris take a 20 percent stake in Alstom, under a temporary agreement with construction group Bouygues.

Major train and rail technology groups active in Europe have been looking at combining their businesses as larger Chinese state-backed rival CRRC embarks on a global expansion drive.

In July, Alstom reported higher first quarter sales and it maintained its financial outlook.

Analysts at Exane BNP Paribas said a deal should benefit Alstom as growth could be restricted as a standalone company.

“We suggest that, if they participate, value creation would be limited for Siemens but material for Alstom,” said Exane BNP Paribas analysts, who raised their rating on Alstom to “neutral” from “underweight”.

“Aside from the M&A (mergers and acquisition) angle, we believe that commercially, this year will be relatively muted for Alstom. With no large contracts in sight, pressure on free cash flow should intensify due to lack of down payments received,” added the Exane BNP Paribas team.

Indian Railways wave red flag to stop child traffickers in transit

On platform number one at the Salem train station in south India, a colourful booth stands out amid the chaos of passengers, porters and vendors.

It is a children’s help desk, one of two set up on a pilot basis in India by the charity Railway Children. Here staff are mapping the journeys of thousands of vulnerable children, who have been trafficked, are lost or are runaways.

From the brightly painted booth, officials track the nearly 200 trains that travel daily through Salem junction in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, looking for children at risk on the rail network – the traffickers’ preferred mode of transport.

Campaigners say India’s train stations have become transit points for traffickers, who lure children to cities with the promise of good jobs, but sell them into slavery as domestic workers, to work in small manufacturing units, farming or pushed into sexual slavery in brothels.

“If you travel 45 minutes from Salem junction, you will be in industrial hubs that thrive on child labour or cross a state border into a region with a different local language and culture,” said Valavan Vasantha Siddartha of Railway Children.

“If the journey of trafficked and vulnerable children is not stopped at the stations, the children will simply disappear once they reach their destinations.”

The two 24 hour help desks set up in collaboration with Indian Railways identify children at risk and provide them with shelter and work on reuniting them with their families.

More than 9,000 children in India were reported to have been trafficked in 2016, a 27 percent rise from the previous year, according to government data.

A large number of unaccompanied and trafficked children travel on train across India and many use platforms as shelter or working as hawkers or ragpickers, campaigners said.

“Our officials come across them all the time, travelling ticketless or abandoned on trains and at platforms,” A S Vijuvin, senior railway officer at the Salem station told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Between 2014 and August 2017, the Railway Protection Force rescued 28,057 children including 1,502 trafficked children from stations, according to a statement released on Monday.

On an average, at least 25 children are rescued every day from trains and railway premises, the statement said.

RESCUED

Since the help desk was opened at Salem station in March, 431 children have been rescued, a quarter from northern India.

“Many of the children we rescue were heading for the poultry farms in Namakkal, spinning mills in Erode or truck workshops along the highways,” Siddartha said.

“Since we set up the booth, we have noticed that many are travelling on trains that arrive past midnight, when the surveillance is lower.”

Campaigners estimate there is a vulnerable child entering a railway station every five minutes. Girls are particularly vulnerable and often taken off by traffickers within hours of arriving.

The Salem booth, and a similar one in Darbhanga station in eastern state of Bihar, are connected to shelters run near the station.

“Some come to have a bath or just sit in a clean space. We have counsellors at hand and the idea is to eventually help these children,” said Siddartha of Railway Children. “In many cases we reunite them with their families.”

The Indian government has in the past launched campaigns on India’s vast railway network, while a periodic police drive, “Operation Smile”, screens children in shelters, train and bus stations, and on the streets to find the missing.

Indian Railways has now extended these initiatives to cover 82 stations across the world’s fourth-largest railway network.

Ticket checkers, catering staff and policemen travelling on trains are taught to look for signs of trafficking and be on alert for children in large groups, the body language of the adults accompanying them and dubious documents.

“We are constantly relooking at the process because we realise that traffickers are two steps ahead,” Vijuvin said.

“When big stations are covered, they disembark two stops ahead, at the smaller ones. We hope to slowly link every station with these protocols.”

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to jointly procure 5000 Tonnes of Rails

Kazakhstan Railways (KTZ) and Uzbekistan Railways (UTY) have signed a cooperative agreement to jointly purchase 5000 tonnes of rails by the end of this year from ARBZ, Kazakhstan, as well as a long-term contract with the supplier to procure 13,500 tonnes of high-quality rail annually for high-speed lines up to 2020.

The president of Kazakhstan, Mr Nursultan Nazarbayev, and the president of Uzbekistan, Mr Shavkat Mirziyoyev, signed the strategic cooperative agreement between the two railways during the Kazakh-Uzbek Business Forum held in Tashkent on September 16.

The document aims to achieve further long-term cooperation in order to increase the competitiveness of international transport routes passing through the two countries.

The total value of the contracts is estimated at more than $US 320m.

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