Chennai: If you are a regular commuter in electrical multiple unit (EMU) trains on Chennai Beach-Tambaram section, keep your arms and head inside the train and don't travel on the steps as a wall is waiting to claim you or maim you at the St. Thomas Mount railway station.
Four commuters, all students including a 16-year-old studying plus-2, died on the spot after they hit a wall on the platform 4 of St. Thomas Mount station. According to sources, the peak hour train from Chennai Beach to Thirumalpur EMU local (40701) was late by nearly 35 minutes due to which college and office goers boarded the train in large numbers forcing the youngsters to travel on the footboard.
“The train was traversing the station’s platform 4 and not on its usual platform 2. As platform 4 is intended for fast locals and express trains, a wall had been constructed close to it to prevent jaywalking. The wall has proved deadly ever since its construction, having claimed many lives,” a regular commuter said.
The victims were identified as P. Sivakumar (23) of R.A Puram who was a second-year B.Com student in a college in Pallavaram, J. Naveen Kumar (20) of Pattinampakkam who was a polytechnic student and Bharat (17) of Tambaram who was in Plus-2 in a Tambaram school.
The identity of another victim is yet to be ascertained. As Bharat's parents are out of the city, he was staying with his grandmother in Tondiarpet and was attending the school from there.
The injured commuters Vignesh (19) of West Saidapet and Naresh (20) of Alandur are admitted to Government Royapettah Hospital. Vijay Kumar (19) of St. Thomas Mount, Srivatsan (18) and Yashar (23) of Chromepet are undergoing treatment in Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital.
Two unknown persons were treated at the outpatient ward of Saidapet GH.
Only 12 hours before the Tuesday morning mishap in which four died, two commuters - Vignesh (23) of Tambaram Sanatorium and Stephen (24) of Thoothukudi - had died after ramming the same wall on Monday night.
An unidentified man died on July 19 in the same railway station.
Commuters allege that the late running of the train had led to the switching of platforms but an unmoved Southern Railway said, “There was no infringement as per Railway rule.”
“The train has a stoppage at the railway station. But it did not slow down to stop. More than 10 passengers hit the wall and fell down. We ran towards the motorman's cabin screaming to stop the train. But the train stopped only at its destined spot. Everything happened in a sudden,” Rekha of Anna Nagar, a witness to the gory accident, said.
Despite RPF presence at the suburban station, none of the RPF personnel came forward to help the ambulance crew to shift the injured persons. In a video taken during the accident, some commuters are seen helping the paramedical personnel while a lone RPF personnel is standing by.
Footboard travel turns fatal
The Southern Railway maintains that they did not do anything wrong. But commuters allege that the disruption of services in the peak hours led to the footboard travel.
“The train was crowded more than three times on Tuesday morning,” Ganesh, a college student, who was waiting at St Thomas Mount police station to board the train, said.
The regular commuter also said that if the railway operated the train on time and rectified the OHE snag quickly, there was no need to take footboard travel.
Chennai Divisional Railway manager Naveen Gulati agreed to the fact and said there was a heavy rush of passengers as trains were running late due to lack of power supply on the suburban line. “Usually the suburban train from Chennai Beach to Tirumalpur runs on a suburban track. Even, it was allotted the same track, but was later shifted to the fast suburban line as there was no supply in an overhead wire on the other track,” Gulati told.
Between 7.05 am and 8.15 am, there are 8 EMU local services on the section between Chennai Beach and Tambaram, according to railway timetable. “How could one train accommodate passengers of 8 trains?” a passenger asked.
Meanwhile, the Southern Railway, in a statement, requested the passengers to avoid travelling on the footboard and avoid hanging outside the train risking their own life and lives of co-passengers.