Unmanned railway crossings continue to be death traps

Unmanned railway crossings continue to take a heavy toll of human lives with 194 people killed in the last three years.

According to latest figures, 48 people were killed in mishaps at unmanned crossings during 2012-13, while 115 people were killed in 2011-12 and 31 in 2010-11.

While the number of accidents at unmanned railway gates continues, the cash-strapped national transporter is yet to put its act together to eliminate these death traps numbering about 12,582 across the country.

Though faced with financial stress, the transporter has set an ambitious target of eliminating 10,797 level crossings during the 12th five-year plan (2012-17) and not adding any new level crossing to the rail network in future.

Currently, railways has 31,254 level crossings, around 40% of which are unmanned. The unmanned crossings are responsible for the maximum number of train accidents, around 40%.

As manning these unmanned crossings has not been found to be an ideal solution, the transporter has decided to eliminate all such crossings. According to the Kakodkar committee, elimination of all level crossings (manned and unmanned) within five years would cost around Rs 50,000 crore which can be recovered over the next 7-8 years due to savings in operation and maintenance costs and improved train movement.

Railway officials blame states for the slow progress in eliminating level crossings or putting people in charges of the unmanned ones, saying they are not sharing the cost on a 50:50 basis.

Railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge had said that bridges could be constructed provided state governments or local bodies agreed to share 50% cost of the project.

He admitted that railways was not able to achieve the desired level of progress due to limited availability of funds which were being distributed over a large number of projects, .

The transporter paid Rs 10.88 lakh in compensation to families of victims of accidents at unmanned crossings in 2012-13, Rs 2.22 lakh in 2011-12 and Rs 17.41 lakh in 2010-11.



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