Indian Railways News

‘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.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal To Flag Off 60 New Suburban Train Services

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal will flag off 60 new suburban train services for city commuters tomorrow.

The Central Railway will introduce 14 additional suburban services on its harbour line and trans harbour line each, while the Western Railway would introduce 32 new services on its corridor, which will be effective from October 1,” said a statement issued by the Central and Western Railway today.

Mr Goyal will also release the new suburban time table tomorrow at a function. Increase in additional services on the Western Railway will be effective from October 1, 2017 which includes 17 services in UP (towards Churchgate) direction and 15 services in Down (towards Virar) direction, a statement from Western Railway reads.

The fifth line from Andheri to Virar would also be thrown open for the suburban train tomorrow and Railway Minister will flag off the operation of local trains on this line, it said.

“With these additional introduction, the number of daily suburban services on Western Railway will now go up from 1,323 to 1,355 including 110 harbour services, while total suburban services on Central Railway will increase from 1,660 to 1,688 daily,” the statement added.

The Railway Minister is also scheduled to have a ride in local train from Vile Parle to Churchgate tomorrow, where he will address railway officials,” said a senior WR official.

Railways To Engage With ISRO For Rail Safety: Piyush Goyal

Indian Railways is working with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to devise safety mechanisms to make travel by trains more safer, Union minister Piyush Goyal said today. The minister said that he met ISRO Chairman A S Kiran Kumar few days back and Indian Railways along with RailTel are working together to explore use of space technology for safety in railways.

“Safety is very pressing and urgent need. The discussion which we had was very eye-opening in some sense for me but also very exciting in terms of possibilities that open for engaging with space technologies that ISRO has developed, helping in bringing safer travel to Indian railways,” Goyal said at India Mobile Congress.

There have been a slew of train derailment incidents last month which saw the exit of Suresh Prabhu as the railway minister in the Cabinet reshuffle early this month. Talking about technology at the event, Goyal said railways has been an early adopter of computers which could have been also expanded for various operational processes like safety.

“Way back in 1960s, railways started using computers in a small way and by 1985 you had passenger reservations system all computerised. I remember banking started using computers in 1990s. It was quite an interesting fact for me that in late 1960s railways started using computers. I am delighted about that but I do wish we had expanded those frontiers much to bring technology for safety for example,” Goyal said.

He said modern technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are going to change the world works and India has opportunity to look at what is latest across the world and bring it to the country.

“I have asked railtel to look at a programme to connect thousands of railway stations with wi-fi… we can actually provide also the villages around railway stations with wi-fi connectivity and get rural India also connected with new age technology. Let’s give them same kind of opportunity that our children in cities are enjoying,” Goyal said.

The minister said that round the clock access of connectivity and electricity is dream of billions of Indians and the government is making efforts to achieve it.

“Way back in 1960s, railways started using computers in a small way and by 1985 you had passenger reservations system all computerised. I remember banking started using computers in 1990s. It was quite an interesting fact for me that in late 1960s railways started using computers. I am delighted about that but I do wish we had expanded those frontiers much to bring technology for safety for example,” Goyal said.

He said modern technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are going to change the world works and India has opportunity to look at what is latest across the world and bring it to the country.

“I have asked railtel to look at a programme to connect thousands of railway stations with wi-fi… we can actually provide also the villages around railway stations with wi-fi connectivity and get rural India also connected with new age technology. Let’s give them same kind of opportunity that our children in cities are enjoying,” Goyal said.

The minister said that round the clock access of connectivity and electricity is dream of billions of Indians and the government is making efforts to achieve it.

Railways Looks To Use Advanced Technology For Rail Safety

Indian Railways is working with the Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO to build and deploy safety mechanisms for safer rail journeys, union minister Piyush Goyal said today. He said he met with ISRO Chairman AS Kiran Kumar a few days ago and the Indian Railways along with RailTel are working together to explore use of space technology for railway safety.

 “Safety is very pressing and urgent need. The discussion which we had was very eye-opening in some sense for me but also very exciting in terms of possibilities that open for engaging with space technologies that ISRO has developed, helping in bringing safer travel to Indian railways,” Mr Goyal said at the India Mobile Congress.

Suresh Prabhu exited as railway minister in the cabinet reshuffle earlier this month. Several train derailment accidents have happened in recent times.

Mr Goyal said the railways has been an early adopter of computers, and technology could have been expanded for operational processes like safety. “Way back in 1960s, railways started using computers in a small way and by 1985 you had passenger reservations system all computerised,” he said.

“I remember banking started using computers in 1990s. It was quite an interesting fact for me that in late 1960s railways started using computers. I am delighted about that but I do wish we had expanded those frontiers much to bring technology for safety, for example,” Mr Goyal said.

He said modern technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning will give a chance to India to look at what is latest across the world and bring it to the country.

“I have asked RailTel to look at a programme to connect thousands of railway stations with Wi-Fi. We can actually provide Wi-Fi to villages around railway stations,” he said.

Railways Minister Piyush Goyal At India Mobile Congress: Highlights

Railways Minister Piyush Goyal addressed the India Mobile Congress in New Delhi today. Apart from Mr Goyal, the three-day event is being attended by communications minister Manoj Sinha, law and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, among others. The India Mobile Congress is the first ever mobile, Internet and technology event in India and is designed to be along similar lines as the Mobile World Congress (MWC) that is held each year in Barcelona, Spain. The event is not affiliated with GSMA, the body that organises the MWC and satellite events across the world, but has been put together by Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), a group that represents most of India’s leading telcos.

  • Its the age of connectivity that will take India to the next level
  • Telecom and Railways have a lot of work ahead of us. We have to look at new standards of service to our customers, we have to probably expand the level of technology, but I have no doubt in my mind that this challenge will only enthuse us
  • Connectivity is going to be the key to growth, development
  • The increase penetration of smartphones brings all of e-commerce and banking in your pocket
  • Our lives are revolving around mobile phones
  • As we move closely towards m-governance or mobile governance, it’s going to become more easy, more effective and given the pricing of telecom, i think much more economical
  • We are seeing so much growth in usage of internet over mobile that we will see 500-600 million people getting connected to the internet
  • Great opportunity for start ups and entrepreneurs to integrate technology and public services
  • Railways was one of the early users of computers in the country. We started using them in the late 1960s in a small way and by 1985 we had the passenger reservation on computers. Banking started to use computers around 1990s and core banking came in only in the 200-2005 period
  • India has demonstrated leadership in mobile
  • We are working with Google to bring 400 railway stations Wi-Fi connected
  • We are looking at ways to help rural India avail benefits of digital age
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