The onset of summer has become a cause of concern for railway officials. The scorching heat coupled with overcrowded trains has led to a greater number of people dying while travelling on train footboards as passengers choose to risk their lives by travelling on the footboard to soak in the cool breeze rather than stay in the bogie cramped with at times as many as 400 people.
In summer there are three to five cases per month of deaths caused by footboard travelling in the Visakhapatnam Railway Station (VRS) limits, which stretches till the Kasimkota railway station on the Vijayawada line to Kothavalasa station on the Vizianagaram line, informed the Government Railway Police (GRP) station house officer (SHO) at VRS, A Parthasaradhi.
In the last two months, at least six persons have died after having fallen asleep on the footboard, said GRP sources.
The maximum number of cases occur between 2 am to 5 am, when those travelling on the footboard tend to fall asleep, said Parthasaradhi. The incident is uncommon during the monsoon and in winter as footboard travellers stay inside the bogie to take shelter from the rain and the cold.
In addition to the GRP at VRS, which falls under the East Coast Railways (ECoR), railway police stations falling under Tuni, Samalkot and Rajahmundry, Palasa, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam Road stations are vulnerable points for deaths caused by footboard travelling as almost all trains move fast on these points at night.
Police said that they have been unable to control the cases of deaths caused by footboard travelling despite measures such as awareness camps and counseling programmes for passengers at railway stations and inside trains.
Railway police claim that they give priority to conducting awareness or counseling programmes instead of imposing punishment on offenders under Section 156 of Railway Protection Act, according to which travelling on the roof, steps or footboard of any carriage or an engine or any other part of a train is prohibited and passengers found flouting these rules shall be punishable with imprisonment for three months or a fine of Rs 500.
“A special patrolling team keeps a vigil on the passengers travelling on the footboard of trains. The team wakes up the passengers if they are found sleeping on the footboard,” said Railway DSP (for GRP) V Bhima Rao.
K Sudhakara Rao, a school teacher from Vijayawada, who was at the Vizag railway station, said that no passenger wants to travel on the footboards or hang from doors or windows of trains. The railways is not increasing the number of general compartments, despite repeated appeals from passengers. “We can control the deaths as well as the footboard travelling by increasing the number of general bogies from the existing four to at least six in each train,” Sudhakar said.
A senior railway official said that a general bogie is always occupied with nearly 400 to 500 passengers against its maximum capacity of 120.
The railway divisional manager at Visakhapatnam, Anil Kumar, told TOI, “I will definitely bring the issue of augmentation of general coaches to the notice of the railway board and also instruct my staff to take all possible steps to control the footboard travelling in this summer.”