As part of the Indian Railways effort to phase out unmanned level crossings, the Maligaon-headquartered Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has also drawn up an ambitious plan to do away with such crossings.
NFR PRO Nripen Bhattacharya told The Assam Tribune that there are a total of 1,598 authorized level crossings in the region under its jurisdiction. Out of the total, 878 are manned level crossings while the remaining 720 are unmanned.
“For the current fiscal year of 2013-14, we have set a target for converting and upgrading 60 more unmanned level crossings into manned ones. Till April 30 this year, i.e. during the first month of the fiscal, work on converting 12 such unmanned crossings had begun and the rest would also be taken up soon,” Bhattacharya said.
He said that in addition to the conversion process, NFR has also decided to close down four such unmanned level crossings this year. “Besides, we have also set a target for constructing road under-bridges in 33 places where unmanned level crossings exist this fiscal and work has started in one such place,” the NFR PRO said.
He said that phasing out of unmanned level crossings has brought down the rate of fatal accidents. “In the first two months of this financial year (April and May), only two deaths have been reported among people crossing tracks at authorized spots. Both the deaths, including one each in Assam and West Bengal, have taken place at unmanned level crossings, while there have been no deaths in manned level crossings,” Bhattacharya said.
He added that besides unmanned level crossings, which are still authorized spots where people can cross the railway tracks, there also exist a number of totally unauthorized crossings.
“There were 385 such unauthorized crossings in the NFR region as on January 1 this year. Till April 30, we have closed down 46 such unauthorized crossings,” he said.
Bhattacharya said that the NFR has taken the issue of closing the unauthorized crossings seriously. “In unmanned level crossings, there exist proper signboards and other safety precautions. Such things are totally absent from unauthorized crossings which are totally illegal and very dangerous for people crossing them,” he said, adding that using such crossings is a punishable offence.
“Sensitizing the public about safety aspects and regarding hazards of using such unauthorized crossings is very important and we have been carrying out public campaigns in the media and through advertisements,” Bhattacharya said.