The recent stampede that happened in the Elphinstone railway station, Mumbai escalates big questions on the pedestrian safety in the Indian railway stations during an emergency. It is conspicuous that the design for public spaces does not consider the nature of Indian Passengers. When 23 passengers were killed in a stampede due to the heavy passenger traffic, which was aggravated when the passengers decided to take the over bridge as a shelter from the rain. These examples prove that our public spaces are least prepared to take evacuation in case of an emergency.
The condition of passenger safety is more or less identical and least prioritized in railway stations. This scenario is exacerbated by some careless technological interventions without making appropriate design modifications on the existing infrastructure. The passenger over bridges which are used extensively for crossing the platforms is very narrow, obstructing the movement of passengers. During the peak hours, an unregulated flux of passengers often results in a passenger flow, which is unidirectional. This severely affects the pace and comfort of the traffic crossing the bridge in the opposite direction. This congestion is intensified with an unplanned introduction of escalators intersecting the existing pedestrian traffic flow at right angles, at regular intervals, with a continuous flux of pedestrians onto the bridge. Elderly passengers and passengers with luggage usually prefer to go by the escalator. But during peak hours the rate at which passengers exit from the escalator is very low compared to the rate at which the passenger enter onto the escalator, due to congestion at the exit points. This creates a horrific situation for the passengers who are midway on the escalator, with the choice of climbing down the escalator or stumbling down the moving steps creating accidents and death. We are merely fortunate that such accidents are not happening.
As the railway authority is actively promoting escalators and lifts in the railway stations, it highly recommended supplementing such interventions with sufficient design, planning and managerial modification on the existing facilities, which otherwise would lead to stampedes and accidents. It is high time for Indian Railway to reevaluate and reframe the existing evacuation plans considering the changes happening with the nature of passenger traffic inside the railway station.