Train, Bus Security Top Govt Agenda in Mumbai

MUMBAI: The vulnerability of the city's public transport system has been repeatedly exposed by terrorists who have blown up buses, taxis and trains. Security , beefed up after every attack , has still proved vastly inadequate. Now with Mumbaikars looking forward to riding the Metro rail by the year end, making that ride a safe one will be a major concern for authorities along with preventing any further attacks on local trains and buses.

Commuters will have to bear with tighter security apparatus at Metro rail stations. Officials at Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd which is building the first Metro rail from Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar , said a vast network of CCTV cameras will relay live images to the station control room and operations centre.

The CCTV screens will be monitored by experts who will report suspicious movements to a quick reaction team trained to tackle emergencies.

While further details are being discussed, MMOPL officials said all Metro terminals will be fitted with gadgets like hand-held and doorframe metal detectors and explosive detectors.

Some have even proposed an integrated security system, covering BEST, Metro, Mono and suburban rails.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is holding regular workshops with experts , including those from the US Federal Transport Department , to upgrade security systems.

"It is high time mass transport agencies (road and rail) liaison with each other to strengthen the security apparatus," suggested an MMDRA official. "The modus operandi of a terrorist is usually the same, be it railways or buses. He manages to sneak in with explosives in a bag or tiffin box and leaves it behind. The best way to prevent this is foolproof checking /scanning of baggages, round-the-clock vigil by enforcement agencies, regular intelligence inputs and an alert citizenry," he stated.

A senior railway official said his department adopted preventive measures after explosions on trains a few years back. "But what happened? Ajmal Kasab and his accomplice easily sneaked into CST and killed several innocent persons within minutes. We were ill-prepared ," he pointed out.

After the 26/11 attacks, police have AK-47 assault rifles and there are armoured vehicles outside major stations.

The BEST too fears attacks on its buses after the blasts in 2002 and 2003. "We want to introduce hi-tech gadgets to make our drivers and conductors pro-active against terror threats," said an official from the traffic wing. It also has a new flying squad armed with metal detectors.

After a taxi bomb went off on 26/11, cabbies have also been on high alert. "Our union has appealed to all members to check seats after a passenger alights," said taxi union leader A L Quadros. Auto drivers too have been asked to follow a similar procedure.

After taxis were used as bombs at crowded markets like Zaveri Bazar, drivers also watch out for taxis or auto left behind without a driver.

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