A week after four men aboard a crowded suburban train died after hitting a hard surface while travelling through the St Thomas Mount station, the Southern Railways has recommended the cancellation of railway passes and season tickets of passengers who travel on footboard in trains in Tamil Nadu.
According to officials, the passes and season tickets of those travelling on the footboard will be seized, and once their names are on record, they will not be issued these passes in the future.
This move is specifically aimed at college and school students, who allegedly form a majority of the 'footboard travellers'. The Passengers Amenities Association has, however, slammed the move and said that it will have no long-term impact on reducing accidents.
According to reports, 191 persons have died due to travelling on footboards between January 1, 2016, and June 30 this year across the Southern Railways. During this period, 18,414 footboard travellers have been apprehended by the Railway Police Force and fines to the tune of Rs 49.51 lakh has been collected. Last year alone, 7,000 passengers were apprehended for travelling on the footboard, say officials. This has, however, done little to bring down the number of accidents.
"This year we think at least 10,000 people will be arrested for travelling on the footboard. The RPF has already apprehended 4,000 people," says Louis Amuthan, Senior Divisional Security Commissioner, RPF. "Most of these violators are college students and office going youngsters. Their railway passes will be confiscated and their institution will be told not to send their applications to the Railways in the future. So, once caught, the student will not be eligible for a railway pass again. Following these accidents we are forced to take such strict measures.”
But aren't they forced to hang on to the doors of suburban trains due to lack of space and inadequate number of trains?
"We accept trains are a little crowded. But footboard travelling is not due to overcrowding," claims the Commissioner. "It is an act of daredevilry."
The Passengers Amenities Association however dismisses the RPF's latest recommendation, terming it a stop-gap measure.
"This is a ridiculous move," slams a member of the association. "People are standing on footboards at peak hours to get to their destination. What the Railways should be doing is adding additional coaches to accommodate more passengers and then eventually introducing full length doors to prevent accidents completely.”
The Association further points out that even if they stop issuing passes, these passengers can just buy tickets and board the trains.
"There is no fool-proof method to even ensure that everyone has tickets. Then where is the question of confiscating passes?" he asks. "This is an eye-wash to make it seem like some action is being taken."