Railways minister Suresh Prabhu on Tuesday shot off a letter to Union finance minister Arun Jaitley to demand an additional grant of Rs 20,000 to undertake the task of eliminating Unmanned Level Crossings (ULCs).
Close on the heels of 12 deaths at an unmanned crossing on January 26 near Hisar in Haryana, another person was killed and two injured when a train mowed into a car on the Sitamarhi-Darbangha route in Bihar on Tuesday.
Level crossings death account for approximately 40% of all rail-related incidents, although these are not categorised as rail accidents. Compensation for such deaths is also not granted uniformly to the families of those killed.
Prabhu had announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to the next of kin of the five children killed at an unmanned crossing in Uttar Pradesh on December 4, 2014, but no such gesture has been shown in subsequent accidents at railway crossings.
An estimated 11,500 of the total of an estimated 30,000 level crossings are currently unmanned, while tasks of building Road under Bridges (RuBs) and Road over Bridges (ROBs) have progressed at a snail’s pace for lack of funds. “His initiative at seeking a one-time grant for building RoBs and RuBs will have a long term impact on passenger safety,” an official said.
The railway ministry recently firmed up a plan for completing the task of building RoBs and RuBs at the 1,150 rail crossings that criss-cross the national highways. The task is proposed to be completed within a five year time frame.
Previous railways ministers including Dinesh Trivedi and Mukul Roy had also sought additional central funds to undertaking passenger safety tasks including plans to build RoBs and RuBs. In the NDA’s previous term from 1998 to 2004, the railways had put together a corpus of Rs 17,500 crore to undertake passenger safety works including repair and rehabilitation of over-aged rail bridges.