If this platform had more people, 3 lives would have been saved

The new terminal remains grossly under-utilised even as New Delhi railway station is under-equipped for load

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | May 19, 2010


An empty platform at the Anand Vihar railway terminal
An empty platform at the Anand Vihar railway terminal

Sunday's stampede at the New Delhi railway station was explained away as a 'trip-up' by the following evening. But as anyone who has boarded or deboarded a train there would tell you, the tragedy remains a case of too little for too many. From space, seating, to foot-over-bridges - the station simply has not been built to handle the traffic it does. The Railways probe committee might choose to hide behind euphemisms, but the uncomfortable admission of some officials is that the station has far from adequate infrastructure for managing the crowds that throng its platforms during announcements and in between.

New Delhi railway station

Congested stairs between foot over-bridge and platform at New Delhi railway station caused the stampede

However, the railways was not playing the fiddle exactly while the stampede was in the making - the spanking new yet shamefully underutilised Anand Vihar railway terminal can vouch for it.

Built at a cost of Rs 240 cr and spread over 6,000 sqm, the terminal was inaugurated last December to ease some of the pressure off the New Delhi station by shifting some trains here. Six months later it serves three to four east-bound (Bihar, UP, WB) trains - and from May 1, some summer special trains. It doesn't even begin to scratch at the figure of 272 trains that start and end at New Delhi railway station - so much for easing the burden.

Railway officials are quick with their defence for the delay in making the terminal fully functional. Blame is volleyed between shortage of staff, delay in construction of platforms 1 and 2, to a highway on the route that delayed laying of tracks.

A highway between Sahibabad and Anand Vihar, reportedly, delayed the laying of the tracks to the terminal by couple of months. A December deadline only made sure that all efforts went into making at least one track ready for inauguration by then. Thus, while platform 3 was ready for use, platforms 1 and 2 could be up and running only by February this year.

Some officials, in rare introspection for the department, even blame some peers for pandering to their whims instead of looking out for the best interests of the passengers and the railways itself. They claim that some offcials from outside Delhi, want trains plying to their region to start from New Delhi.

Anand Vihar

The new railway terminal at Anand Vihar

Part of the reason for a luke warm response from the public could also have been the limited commutation options to the Anand Vihar terminal from other parts of Delhi. But with the Metro service now available literally at the its door-step, this problem also has been long remedied.

Whatever be the reason(s), the fact that New Delhi railway station is balking under pressure is there for all to see. On the day of the stampede, the site of the tragedy, platforms 12 and 13, were lost beneath 14,000 pairs of feet. All this while both platforms can collectively hold a maximum of 5,000 people. The Anand Vihar terminal, meanwhile, barely evens feel the presence (pic) of the 4,000-4,500 footfalls it records daily.

Now, in the aftermath of the stampede, the Railways is talking about making greater use of the Anand Vihar railway terminal - it is mulling more trains running to and from West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand being shifted here - but does it not seem like 'adequate, but late'?
 

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