Passenger safety in Metro Rail

Since it became operational in 1984, the Kolkata Metro Rail has become an important segment of the transport system of the metropolis. Nearly seven lakh passengers are carried daily by the Kolkata Metro. With the rapid expansion of the Metro network in Kolkata and Howrah now underway, in the next five years, its passenger handling capacity may double or treble. This will be a welcome development as the Metro rail is non-polluting. The more diesel buses go off the roads the better it will be from the view of pollution. The Metro is likely to become the most important mode of transport in greater Kolkata which includes Howrah on the other side of the Ganga in not-too-distant a future.
This means much greater importance to be given to the safety of the Metro rail passengers. There have been frequent cases of fire in the rail coaches, making commuters panicky. Many have taken ill when thick smoke filled the bogies and the passengers had no way of escaping. Then there have been cases of jamming of doors, necessitating evacuation of passengers through the driver’s cabin. Fire and smoke in an underground railway is always fraught with the possibility of loss of life because passengers have no way of escape. Panic may cause a stampede and more deaths.
When the Metro rail is extended to Howrah, with the route going under the river Ganga, safety assumes much more importance in the eventuality of power going off, or coaches catching fire or any other breakdown, making virtual prisoners of passengers and making their position desperate. There are seven new projects under construction for the expansion of the Kolkata Rapid Transit System, as the Metro rail is formally called. In future the RTS may reach as far as Barrackpore in the north and Uluberia in the west. To cope with the new load of passengers, the number of trains will have to increased, maybe the number of coaches per train will have to be increased and better amenities for the passengers have to be provided.
The underground railway system is fast becoming popular in India with many metropolises now having it. The capital of every State, which is seeing a fast population increase, may demand to have an underground railway in near future. Coupled with the necessity of reducing air pollution caused by transport vehicles using fossil fuels, the underground railway system may become the pivot of urban transport in India. Two top priorities in this expansion should be passenger safety and amenity.

Wednesday, 2 January, 2019