Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Skywalks in train stations - what are they for?

This weekend I went to Mambalam station to receive my wife who was returning back from TUT. The train was delayed by an hour and a half. I got ample time to sit back & relax. It was Saturday morning, 8 am. Mambalam station was without its usual fanfare. I was silently enjoying what was going around me. Passengers of diverse age groups ... small kids to old folks, hopping in & out of the trains that pass by. The station master who comes out of his room religiously to wave Green flag to all the passing trains. But, the thing that stood out very significantly, is almost all the people (90+%) didn't use the skywalks to cross the platforms. The engineer in me started to analyze the problem & come up with solutions.

First of all, the present skywalk is at one extreme corner of the station. Second of all, reaching the other platform by crossing the railway tracks is damn easy. Despite the fact that I'm educated, I too was tempted to cross the tracks - but, managed to resist my temptation. How can we expect the 'common man' to NOT cross the railway tracks? People always tend to take the 'shortest possible route' to their destination - unless they're stopped by an iron hand or there is a serious threat to their life. All the trains start to sound horn few Kilometers before the station. So, people feel that it is absolutely safe for the passengers to cross the tracks. But, it is not true. Watch out this video.

How do you stop it? Well, this is indeed a tough question.

Constructiong another skywalk that is close enough
- Do you think people will take the pain of climbing the stairs (even if it is close enough), to cross the railway tracks? Absolutely, NOT.

Putting an Iron fence between the tracks - We may think that putting a fence between the tracks would solve the problem. However, people are bold enough to create walkways by breaking the fences. I've seen that in Nungambakkam station. Even metal rods/plates are broken by people to create walk ways.

Putting an electric fence between the tracks - This will technically solve the problem. However, it is not feasible to implement this solution. There will be unnecessary use of power/electricity. Also, if somebody unknowingly touches the fence, they may die. Government may not be willing to implement this.

Constructing a flyover for trains - The train stations will be in the first floor & passengers have to take the stairs to hit the road. This would sound like a logical solution. However, there is huge cost involved in constructing flyovers for trains. Also, the metro trains would consume more electrical energy to pull the coaches up over the flyover & then come back again to the ground level.

Putting a guard who will help people to cross the tracks in a designated area - The role of the gaurd will be like a traffic police. He has to stand in the sun/rain all day. He will get uptodate information regarding the arrival of trains in a hand-held device. He'll use that information to guide people to cross the railway tracks. This seems to be an OK solution. But, it may be difficult for the government to hire 'guards' for each & every metro train station. Also, considering the number of people who cross the tracks, it would be 'tough' for the guard to single-handedly manage/guide the crowd without any accidents.

Constructing a travelator/escalator/elevator - This is definitely a good solution. However, it involves lots of cost (for the initial installation & the subsequent maintenence/operation). Moreover, these systems cannot be used by several people at once. So, considering the current population & economical state of India, this solution is also ruled out.

Let trains not to sound horns when they cross a station
- Once this policy is implemented, few people will die when they try to cross the tracks. However, it will create a 'fear' among the rest. There will be handful of people, who will still try to cross the railway tracks without using the skywalks. The government may not be excited to implement this solution.

I couldn't think of a single solution that is cost-effective & easy to implement. I'm doubtful, if there is a real solution to this problem unless India becomes a 'developed' nation (people are educated/disciplined & there is lots of money to carryout such infrastructure projects). I'm very eager to hear feedback from others to solve this problem. If you can come up with something, please do let me know.

Also read:

If I don't care, who'll care?
Traveling near restrooms in the train isn't fun


  1. Make a rule that people should not cross the tracks and put cops in the station area. You can instruct them to collect fine or "gift" money to the tune of Rs.500 everytime people cross. This will reduce the volume of people crossing the tracks. You can increase the gift money further up depending on the volume.

  2. Provide a draw bridge instead or along with fixed skyway bridge so that passengers with light luggage and senior citizens can cross tracks. It can be operated by the station master who is coming out to wave the green flag.

  3. Put them in jail for a day could be a good solution.

  4. Good one. But, govt would end up spending more money for them in Jail. They've to provide food for each of the offenders.