Can rail-related deaths be prevented by having the Level Crossings “manned” (constructing boom barriers and deploying personnel to operate these)?
Monday’s freak accident in Andhra Pradesh — which led to five passenger deaths, including that of Karnataka Congress legislator A Venkatesh Naik — when a lorry broke the closed barriers to ram into the Bengaluru-Nanded Express, brings this question to the fore.
At a time when the cash-strapped railways also wants to cut flab by reducing its workforce, the public transporter has continued to deploy three employees at each of the 19,047 Manned Level Crossings (MLCs), while incurring recurring monthly expenses of approximately Rs 57,000 crore to maintain these.
But accidents have continued to be reported from the MLCs.
As regards the fundamental task of eliminating the Level Crossings by building Road Under Bridges (RuBs) and Road over Bridges (RoBs), progress has been slow for lack of funds and territorial issues between the Railways and state governments.
“The ‘manning’ solution is the easiest option for the Railways to keep everybody quiet, but serves no long term or lasting purpose”, former Railway official Abhay Khanna said.
Former general manager AK Jain concurred, while emphasising on the need to deploy LHB coaches on all mail and express trains to prevent passenger deaths.