Taking serious note of the growing number of deaths at railway crossings, the railways ministry has decided to close existing crossings and substitute them with limited height subways.
In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the ministry has said the decision to construct the subways was taken by the railway board that has granted power to general managers of the zonal railways to sanction projects costing up to Rs 45 lakh.
The construction of subways will be subject to the technical feasibility and the consent of the state governments for the closure of the existing level crossings.
In its affidavit filed by counsel Wasim A. Qadri, the ministry said it aims at closing 600 crossings after the completion of limited height subways at these sites.
In addition, the ministry is planning to construct 1065 road overbridges on the national highways.
Sanction has already been granted to replace road overbridges at 119 sites on a cost- sharing basis. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has already begun work at 124 locations.
The ministry has also filed its response to the July 25 directives of the Supreme Court, seeking a status report on 20,000 unmanned level crossings.
Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan had expressed his displeasure over the delay in surveillance and closing of unmanned level crossings. A bench headed by the chief justice is hearing the public interest litigation that has raised the issue of deaths taking place at these crossings.
The ministry acknowledged that only a few of its crossings are manned. Railway officials said 497 railway crossings are being manned since 2005, after identifying 1018 unmanned crossings. They added that the ministry plans to man at least 441 more level crossings by next year.
The Ministry has also permitted construction of road overbridges on a build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis while giving rights to the respective state governments to exploit the space for commercial purpose. At present, work is going on at 63 locations on a BOT basis.