19 April 2007

...and you thought the C-Train was bad


As Mumbai grows, commuter trains turn deadly

India's economic growth in the past several years has brought new wealth and a higher standard of living to many in Mumbai, a metropolis of 18 million. But it also has created suburban sprawl that is adding more people to a rail network that has seen few new trains or tracks added in the past 30 years. Indian officials have a new term to describe the 2.5 times capacity crowds that now ride at peak hours: Super-Dense Crush Load. That is, 550 people crammed into a car built for 200. The result is what may be the world's most dangerous commute. According to Mumbai police: 3,404 people, or about 13 each weekday, were killed in 2006 scrambling across the tracks, tumbling off packed trains, slipping off platforms, or sticking their heads out open doors and windows for air. The toll has been increasing as daily ridership has increased to more than six million people a day. Last year's tally was up 10% from the year before. Accidents are so common that stations stock sheets to cover corpses.

The commute in many Indian cities has been getting worse as throngs flock from the countryside to urban centers in search of work, and housing developments create a new suburbia. In Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, the railway system has long been a problem. But with ticket prices set artificially low by the federal government it is a money-losing business. The federal and state governments have squabbled in the past over who is responsible for improvements. Now, a US$2 billion upgrade is under way, partly financed by a loan from the World Bank. But that will take at least another five years to finish. Meanwhile, the network's tracks carry 20,000 passengers a day for each kilometer, or 0.62 mile, of rail, eclipsing even Tokyo -- famous for its gloved pushers who cram passengers into cars -- where the system carries 15,000 per kilometer. In New York, the Long Island Rail Road's comparable number is 420, according to the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corp. Even after the current expansion plans add 113 miles, or 22%, to the existing railways and 147, or 74%, more trains, Mumbai's commuter trains will still have to carry 1.5 times their capacity during peak hours.
(Wall Street Journal 070419)

Jebus. What a wreck. Now THAT puts things into perspective.

7 comments:

Jeff Skybar said...

The c-train isn't that far behind. BUT there are cute guys to drool over, so it makes the commute exciting.

Anonymous said...

Jeff don't you mean to rub up and fondle the cute guys on the train.

Reid Dalgleish said...

Can you imagine thousands of 'unwashed masses' in a single car in 40C heat? The thought of the claustrophobia and smell makes me shudder, and then vomit. It's too cold in Calgary for things to stink THAT bad, although it's amazing how disgusting some people are.

Reid Dalgleish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Skybar said...

Anon,
Usually I'm the one getting rubbed up and fondled on the train. But it's by old women...:(

Reid Dalgleish said...

Public transit frottage.....mmmmm.....

I'm so glad I don't have to endure the old women dry humping against my legs at rush hour, Skybar. It would simply freak me out.

doug said...

Yes, its a well suported fact that India's railways have the worst safety reord in the WORLD. Its not just crowding, but the concepts of signalling, track maintenence PRIOR to derailments etc etc are all just foreign concepts. Pretty sad when you consider that railway's are one of the oldest and most "engineered to death" technology's on the planet.
India simply can't say they don't know any better. What you can learn from this thought is that safety is a VALUE not something inherent in any technology and YES safety costs $$$. While India is an extreme example attitudes on safety in North America range from "no accident is acceptable" to Accidents are just a cost of doing business" (CN???) You can lead the horse to water but you can't make him drink.