THE TEEMING commuter trains in Mumbai have received a modest overhaul in recent years. Coaches have been redesigned to offer better ventilation; the hard, angular seats have been replaced with more comfortable ones; and a plan to air-condition the heaving carriages is under way. But as soon as the 8m-odd passengers who ride the trains every day arrive at their destination, they face infrastructure that is as neglected as ever, in the form of the pedestrian bridges by which they cross tracks or busy roads near the stations.
On March 14th a big part of one such overpass collapsed outside Shivaji Terminus, one of the city’s busiest stations, killing six people and injuring 31. The toll could have been worse: the plunging debris did not harm any passengers in vehicles below as a red light happened to be holding traffic back at the fateful moment.
“It was terrible,” says a taxi driver who witnessed the tragedy. Yet there have been many accidents like it. In 2017, 22 commuters were crushed to death in a stampede on another railway footbridge. It was barely six feet wide, yet carried over 100,000 people every rush hour. More than 30 lives have been lost in other accidents involving overpasses over the past two years.
Last year an audit found that 18 of the 296 bridges in the city were dangerous. That is probably an...