The collapse of a foot overbridge outside Mumbai’s busy Chhatrapati Shivaji railway terminus during rush hour on Thursday evening triggered anger and indignation among residents about the poor state of public infrastructure in the city.
At least five people were reportedly killed in the bridge collapse, and at least 36 were injured. The bridge, maintained by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, is believed to be at least three decades old and was audited just six months ago. CST is the city’s busiest rail facility, catering to approximately three million commuters every day.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis declared that a high-level inquiry would be conducted into the accident and that strict action would be taken against those who conducted the structural audit and found the bridge to be fit.
The CST bridge collapse was not an isolated incident – it was merely the latest in a string of railway bridge-related mishaps that have occurred in Mumbai in the past two years.
A long list
Mumbai’s deadliest bridge mishap occurred on September 29, 2017, when 23 people died in a stampede on an overcrowded railway foot-over-bridge at Elphinstone Road station (now renamed as Prabhadevi station). The accident was particularly tragic because commuters had been predicting it for years, and had repeatedly warned railway officials about the need to widen the narrow foot-over-bridge to accommodate a burgeoning number of commuters.
Barely two weeks after the Elphinstone Road stampede, a ceiling tile from a foot overbridge on the same station fell on a woman’s head, injuring her. Days after this incident, on October 14, 2017, a 67-year-old man sustained wrist injuries after some stairs of a foot overbridge at Charni Road station collapsed.
On July 3, 2018, a large section of an east-west connector bridge by Andheri suburban railway station collapsed, injuring five people. One of the women injured in the accident died four days later.
The 47-year-old Andheri bridge had undergone a structural audit just seven months before it collapsed. After the accident, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal claimed that the audit did not find any structural flaws.
A day after the Andheri bridge collapse, civic authorities announced that there were cracks in the bridge outside south Mumbai’s Grant Road railway station. The bridge was closed to traffic for several days while it was repaired.
In October 2018, a portion of a railway foot overbridge collapsed at Mankhurd, a suburb in eastern Mumbai. The bridge was in the process of being dismantled by the Public Works Department, and the accident occurred when a crane tipped over a portion of the bridge. No injuries or casualties were reported in the incident.
‘I feel unsafe as a commuter’
On Thursday, Mumbai citizens responded to the CST bridge collapse with a mix of fear, anxiety and anger.
“Everyone in my family travels by train regularly, so when such incidents happen we feel panic and fear for each others’ safety,” said Chandni Shiyal, 32, a social worker and researcher from Mumbai. “As a commuter, I feel unsafe.”
Mass media student David De Menezes is also upset at the lack of safe infrastructure for citizens. “This is the third time in two years that something has fallen down. We need better infrastructure,” said Menezes. “People should not have to die for the authorities to realise that something needs repairing.”
Transport analyst Ashok Datar blames the repeated infrastructure accidents as “sloppy work” on the part of multiple state agencies.
“I think we need to have boards outside all buildings, bridges and infrastructure in the city, clearly stating when the structure was built, when it was audited last and who conducted the audit. This will ensure there is no more dispute or blame game,” said Datar. “I also think that for the next year, we should stop work on all new infrastructure projects in the city, like the coastal road, and focus on improving our existing infrastructure.”