Railways to stop 73 night trains on metre gauge to avoid mishaps at unmanned crossings
At least 73 trains will be impacted every day with the Railways deciding to cancel night journeys of trains running on the metre gauge network to prevent accidents at unmanned level crossings. The Railways will shortly announce a date from which metre gauge trains will stop running at night.
The decision came less than a week after 13 children were killed when the Gorakhpur-Siwan passenger train smashed into a school van at one such crossing in Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh on April 26. But this train was on broad gauge tracks.
There are 1135 unmanned level crossings across 1000 km of metre gauge tracks in the country.
“There are 11 sections across the country, where we have metre gauge. The maximum speed on these tracks can be 75 km/hour. To avoid accidents, we have decided to run trains only during day time and there will be speed restriction during day also to avoid any mishap. We will cancel some trains while some will be diverted,” said a Railway official on Tuesday.
Of the total 5792 unmanned level crossing across the country, 3479 are on broad gauge section, 1135 on metre gauge and 1178 on the narrow gauge. The narrow gauge is mostly in the hilly areas and the speed is very low, so the Railways have no plan to eliminate unmanned crossing there.
The Railways have targeted to eliminate unmanned crossing in the broad gauge network by March 2020 but is likely to advance the deadline. Unmanned rail crossing can be eliminated either by installing a barrier and turning it into a manned crossing or by building a flyover for vehicular traffic. The majority of the metre gauge tracks are being converted into broad gauge and along with the process, the crossing will be eliminated there.
Corridors where high speed and suburban trains run have been prioritised and the Railways have targeted to remove unmanned crossings on these routes by June this year.
“We have eliminated 1,565 rail crossings in 2017-18 while this year the target is to eliminate 1,500 more. After March 31, 2020, about 400 crossings where one or two trains pass in a day will be left which we will cover later,” Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani had said after the Kushinagar accident.
Lohani, who was brought in to helm the world’s fourth-largest rail network in August year last after a spate of accidents led to a top-level shake-up, said the number of train accidents has come down from 135 in 2014-15 to 73 in 2017-18.
There were 50 accidents on unmanned level crossings in 2014-15, 29 in 2015-16, 20 in 2016-17 and ten in 2017-18.
The government is trying to revamp the rail network that has 12,000 passenger trains and 7,000-odd stations and carries 23 million passengers each day — equivalent of Australia’s population. But poor safety record has dented the Railways’ credibility.