All unmanned crossings to shut by 2020: Railway board chairman
There were 50 accidents on unmanned level crossings in 2014-15, 29 in 2015-16, 20 in 2016-17 and ten in 2017-18.Updated: Apr 26, 2018 15:07 IST
Indian Railways will remove thousands of unmanned level crossings across the country within two years, its top official said on Thursday after 13 children were killed when their school van collided with a train at one such crossing in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district.
“Our special focus has been on level crossings. In unmanned rail crossings, the responsibility is of road users. But because it happens on our premises, we are concerned about it. We are working actively to eliminate unmanned level crossings and will completely eliminate them by March 31, 2020,” railway board chairman Ashwani Lohani said.
Lohani said corridors where high speed and suburban trains run have been prioritised and unmanned crossings on these routes will be removed 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,” he added.
Railway minister Piyush Goyal said in September last year that all the unmanned level crossings will be removed within a year.
“The take to eliminate unmanned level crossing is huge as there are 3,479 such crossings on broad gauge. Forty percent of these will be converted into manned crossing while at other places road over bridge or road under bridge will be constructed,” Lohani said.
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.
“At 2,514 crossings, gate mitras have been deployed in single shifts while at 1,869 locations, they have been deployed in double shifts,” Lohani added.
He was referring to people hired from local villages and posted at all unmanned crossings to warn people about incoming trains before they cross the tracks.
The driver of the van involved in Thursday’s accident, who eyewitnesses said had his earphones on, allegedly ignored the repeated warnings of the gate mitra.
“The train (55075) driver too blew the whistle in warning but he (van driver) ignored it, leading to the accident,” the spokesperson of North Eastern Railway Sanjay Yadav said.
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.
First Published: Apr 26, 2018 14:56 IST