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Unmanned level crossing accidents

Unmanned Level Crossing, Level CrossingWhile crossing unmanned level-crossings, the primary responsibility lies with the road user, and not with the railways and it is quite understandable. In the wake of several deaths in the unmanned level crossings in the country, it is a must to have a protective gate in these pockets and guarded by a responsible security located in such places for safety reasons. It was reliably learned that 1,565 of the unmanned level crossings were eliminated in 2017-18 and the target is of removing 1,600 in 2018-19 lies in the hands of Railway Ministry.

Three hurt as local train rams into a bus at Juhi level crossing raised the question of providing a guarded gate in future. Four years back a 502 Best Bus suffered the same fate and this time it was 18 number NMMT bus service which got hit by an empty train. People are really looking for safety in public carriers in general and Railways in particular. Despite commencing Railway services in the year 1853 we are still lagging behind. There are number of the unmanned level crossing in cities and there is a number of accidents involving vehicles and trains in this corridor.

The Indian Railway has been in the recent past plagued by accident and the priority of the Railway Minister should be for safety first rather than increasing the speed of the trains. More thrust should be given for safety on the road approaching unmanned level crossing appointing more staff to cope up with the requirement. Railway Minister should make it a point to cover all unmanned level crossings with proper gate and security staff. The fracture caused to the school children will matter much for the child. Railways should be vigilant in this pocket and see to it that such accidents did not occur in future with timely remedial measures.

Some six years back, new bus route of BEST 502 met with the same accident in the Juhi Nagar level crossing and the bus got damaged in the process. This is a very serious case as bus drivers are risking their lives and that of passengers. Nearly four decades ago saw, an unmanned level crossing near New Ghaziabad station, a school going girl trying to cross the unmanned level crossing got her new cycle struck up and fearing punishment at home, stayed back to retrieve the cycle lost her life and the vehicle got totally damaged. That is how we are facing inevitable in such unmanned level crossing and it is time to give a thought about providing protection to these gates.

While crossing UMLCs, the primary responsibility lies with the road user, and not with the railways. The rule while crossing such railway lines is to look both ways, stop and then proceed. In most of the cases, the driver did not stop and that was the root cause of accidents. Despite taking all the precautions, the national carrier takes could not be held responsible for the negligence of people and there is a need for taking all precautions while crossing tracks. Our thoughts are thoughts are with families of the deceased and I pray for the early recovery of the injured. Ministry of Railways will provide an ex-gratia amount of Rs 2 lakh for the kin of the deceased, Rs 1 lakh for those with serious injuries and Rs 50,000 for those with simple injuries.

According to railway sources, a review of the existing unmanned level crossings was done based on the density of rail and road traffic. It was decided to convert most of them in a phased manner and as per funds available with the railways. After being pulled up by the Railway Board for not meeting the March 2018 deadline, steps have been taken for a fast-track mission to close all unmanned level crossings prone to accidents.

It is confirmed that the construction of ROBs and RUBs helped in safer and faster movement of trains. It also helps us to save manpower and cost of maintenance. Each manned gate has an average of four employees. There have been accidents even at manned railway gates. So it is time to apply caution and make sure that there is no danger of trains on the tracks while crossing an unmanned level crossing by foot or while crossing it on a vehicle.  Especially buses used for public transportation and School buses met with such fatal accidents.

It is a must situation in the event frequent accidents on this corridor demands a major development that will enhance safety and punctuality of trains and provide all the unmanned level crossings with a support system, which can safeguard the interest of the people and the railway property.

(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)

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