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.


Events to make public wary of unmanned crossings

North Central Railway has geared up to celebrate International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD) on May 7. According to the plan, awareness drive will be carried at the railway crossings urging people to take precautions while passing manned and unmanned railway crossings. To enhance the safety and reduce inconvenience to road users, busy level crossings are being replaced by Road Over Bridges( ROB)/ Road Under Bridges(RUB) and Limited Height Sub Ways(LHS).

In the North Central Railway region comprising of the Allahabad division, Agra division and Jhansi division, there are about 1,512 level crossings. Among them, 1,028 are manned railway crossings and 453 are unmanned. There are five cattle crossings and 26 canal crossings.

In the financial year 2012-13, about 11 ROBs (railway over bridges) and 6 LHS (limited height subways) were constructed replacing the railway crossings. In addition to this, about seven manned level crossings were also closed in the previous financial year. About 30 LHS are also planned in financial year 2013-14.

On the occasion of International Level Crossing Awareness Day, general manager of North Central Railway Alok Johri will flag off a Mobile Video Van on Tuesday to disseminate information among public regarding precautions to be taken while crossing unmanned crossings.

The van will be equipped with high definition LED television which is the best medium for delivering the message to the target audience in most effective way. The Mobile Video Van is the best medium to reach out to people in remote villages as well as urban areas to make them aware of all the railway safety policies and initiatives taken by the North Central Railway.

Many campaigns through newspapers, TV and radio are being organised. Street plays are also being staged to spread awareness about safety measures to be taken at unmanned crossings.

On this occasion, public awareness campaign would be organised to counsel villagers, educational institutions and road users and make them aware of the provision of Motor vehicles Act and Railway Act by distributing posters, pamphlets, handbills in gram panchayats, markets, petrol pumps and other public places.

Talking to TOI, public relations officer of North Central Railway Amit Malviya said “On the occasion of International Level Crossing Awareness Day, we are undertaking several measures for creating awareness among people. General manager of NCR Alok Johri will flag off a mobile van to create awareness among the people. In addtion to this, nukkad nataks will also be organised near the unmanned crossings so that people were aware of safety measures to be adopted while going past the unmanned crossings.


“International Level Crossing Awareness Day” being Observed on 7th May

Every year, UIC (International Union of Railways) observes o­ne day as the International Level Crossing Awareness Day (ILCAD). This year, 7th May, 2013 is being observed as ILCAD. South Central Railway is participating in this global campaign to sensitize road users to enhance safety at level crossings. The International Level Crossing Awareness Day focuses o­n educational measures and promotion of safe behavior at and around level crossings.

The number of accidents at unmanned level crossings occurring o­n Indian Railways is a matter of concern. As o­n 1st April, 2013, there are 2122 level crossings over South Central Railway, out of which 705 are unmanned level crossings, where the accidents occur primarily due to inadequate precautions by the road users like failing to observe the mandatory signboards, and basic traffic safety rules as per the Motor Vehicles Act.

Special Safety Drive:South Central Railway launches a seven days long Special Safety Drive especially targeting safety at unmanned level crossings from 7thto 13th May, 2013 with a view to eradicate accidents at unmanned level crossings. The drive focuses o­n organizing public awareness campaigns to educate and counsel the road users and make them aware of the relevant provisions related to safe crossing of Level Crossings such as:-

Organizing safety Seminars at various places in the Divisions including Road Transport offices and Educational institutions.
Checking the whistling habits of Loco Pilots while approaching the level crossings by deputing officers and supervisors in the first coach immediately after the Locos of the trains.
Joint ambush checks involving Railway Protection Force, Government Railway Police & Civil Authorities at the level crossings to apprehend errant road users u/s of Motor Vehicle Act.
Ensuring availability of speed breakers whistle boards, road signs and stop boards etc. at LCs
South Central Railway has formulated a Safety Action Plan to eliminate all the unmanned Level Crossings by FY 2016 through various measures such as replacement of Unmanned Level Crossings with Limited Height Subways, suitable road diversions and manning of Unmanned Level Crossing etc. During the last years, 168 Unmanned Level Crossings have been eliminated in SCR. Apart from elimination of Unmanned Level Crossings, a large number of campaigns / programs are also being organized.

Cooperation from all Road Vehicle users is solicited in following the safety procedures while crossing unmanned level crossings. The simple act of stopping and looking out for any approaching train in both directions and then crossing the track in a safe manner at unmanned level crossings will avoid any scope for accident. Alertness and caution o­n the part of road users is of prime importance to achieve zero accidents at level crossings.


Highlights of Indian Railway Budget speech 2013

Presenting his maiden railway budget, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on Tuesday announced a slew of passenger-friendly measures including better e-ticketing facilities and no rail fare hikes.

Here is a look at the key highlights of his Rail Budget speech:
Thrust 1. Safety; 2. Consolidation; 3. Passenger Amenities; 4. Fiscal Discipline.

Some Achievements/Initiatives

> IR enters the one billion tonne Select Club joining Chinese, Russian and US Railways;

> IR also joins Select Club running freight trains of more than 10000 tonne load;

> ‘Fuel Adjustment Component’ concept to be implemented linking tariffs with movement of fuel prices;

&; Target of Rs 1000 crore each fixed for Rail Land Development Authority and IR Station Development Corporation to be raised through PPP in 2013-14;

> New fund – Debt Service Fund – to be set up to meet committed liabilities of debt servicing for WB and JICA loans for DFC and other future liabilities.

Measures for improving Safety & Security

> Making a Corporate Safety Plan for a ten year period (2014-2024).

> Elimination of 10797 level crossings during the 12th Plan and no addition of new LCs to the IR system henceforth.

> Introduction of Train Protection Warning System on Automatic Signalling Systems.

> Rigorous trials of the indigenously developed Train Collision Avoidance System.

> Using 60 kg rails, 260 meter long welded rail panels and improved flash butt welding technology.

> Introduction of 160/200 kmph Self Propelled Accident Relief Trains.

> Induction of crash worthy LHB coaches with anti-climb feature.

> Rehabilitation of identified 17 distressed bridges over next one year.

> Provision of comprehensive fire and smoke detection systems.

> Provision of portable fire extinguishers in Guard-cum-Brake Vans, AC Coaches and Pantry Cars in all trains.

> Use of fire retardant furnishing materials in coaches.

> Measures initiated to deal with elephant related accidents.

> Four companies of women RPF personnel set up and another 8 to be set up to strengthen the security of rail passengers, especially women passengers.

> Recruitment to RPF with 10% vacancies reserved for women

Rail Based Industries

New factories/workshops to be set up:

> a new Forged Wheel Factory at Rae Bareli in collaboration with Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited.

> a Greenfield Mainline Electrical Multiple Units (MEMU) manufacturing facility at Bhilwara (Rajasthan) in collaboration with State Government and BHELBSE -2.63 %.

> a Coach Manufacturing Unit in Sonepat District (Haryana) in collaboration with State Government.

> a Midlife Rehabilitation Workshop at Kurnool ( Andhra Pradesh) in collaboration with the State Government.

> Bikaner and Pratapgarh workshops to undertake POH of BG wagons.

> a workshop for repair and rehabilitation of motorized bogies at Misrod ( Madhya Pradesh).

> a new wagon maintenance workshop in Kalahandi (Odisha).

> a modern signaling equipment facility at Chandigarh through PPP route.


Walk on railway tracks, land in jail

Try walking on the railway tracks and you may stand a chance of being arrested and put behind the bars.

After witnessing 14 deaths on the tracks within a span of 48 hours (Saturday and Sunday), Eastern Railway (ER) has planned to clamp down on people crossing the tracks or walking along them. Under railway rules, such people are trespassers and may face a term of six months in jail and have to pay a fine of Rs 1,000.

Among those killed, 12 were in the Sealdah division and the remaining two in the Howrah division. Many of them were walking along the tracks while using their mobile phones, officials said.

“While eight people were killed on Saturday, six died on Sunday. Such deaths are unnecessary and hamper punctuality. After the matter gets reported, we can’t run trains on the affected track till the Government Railway Police (GRP) removes the body. The saddest part is that most incidents are reported close to stations where foot overbridges and underpasses exist. We have also launched an awareness campaign to stop people from using their mobile phones while crossing the tracks (even at level crossings), but there hasn’t been too much of an improvement. Now, we will have to be stricter,” said an official.

ER has launched another campaign where people will be warned of the consequences of walking along tracks. Even if they survive the trains, railway staff may haul them up and get them arrested. “If caught near foot overbridges or underpasses, the offenders will get no reprieve,” he added.

Suchitto Kumar Das, divisional railway manager, Sealdah, said, “This has become a major issue. When I took over recently, I was shocked to learn that five to six people are run over and killed on the tracks under the Sealdah Division everyday. Most of the accidents occur due to carelessness. People are so involved with their mobile phones that they can’t even hear the train horns. There is a tendency to not use the overbridges and underpasses and most cases occur near stations. A few cases do happen on the Park Circus – Ballygunge and Madhyamgram – Barasat – Birati sections where there are encroachments along the tracks. While some cases are unavoidable, we would like to prevent those that happen due to carelessness.”

Records available with the railways reveals that the ages of those who die in this manner range from teenage to the 70s. The large number of level crossing gates on the Sealdah Division may also be a reason why people prefer to cross the tracks. For the 700-odd km tracks on this division, there are 528 level crossing gates.


Railways’ freight corridor to be signal free

The 3,338 km exclusive freight corridor, being constructed by the Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation, will be level crossing free to ensure seamless transportation of goods.

The move has come as a major help for railways as it will ensure elimination of around 1,900 level crossings by constructing road over-bridges or road under-bridges on existing railways routes along the freight corridor route.

The plan will not only eliminate accidents at level crossings but will also improve the line capacity as trains get held up at busy level crossing gates.

“Railway Board has cleared the plan which will cost around Rs 15,000 crore. DFCC has been given the responsibility to execute it,” said RK Gupta, MD, DFCC.

Currently, of the total 32,735 level crossings, 14,896 are unmanned and these lead to deaths due to negligence of road users.

Casualties in level crossing accidents contribute to 65% deaths and 38% injuries out of the total tally of casualties due to train accidents of all types. Also, level crossing gates are resource intensive for their operation and maintenance.

The railways’ high-level committee on safety headed by Anil Kakodkar has emphasized the need to eliminate all level crossings whether manned (with or without signals) or unmanned in the next five years.

Apart from saving lives, it is estimated that savings on account of elimination of all level crossings will be to the tune of about Rs 7,000 crore every year, the committee said.

Despite passing through a financial crunch, the government is supporting the ambitious freight project that is seen as a necessity for survival of the transporter.

The Rs 77,000-crore mega project aims to build new tracks to transport containers and commodities at speeds of 100 km per hour, reducing travel time by a third. The corridors will ensure a quantum leap in increasing the railways’ transportation capacity by building high-speed and high-capacity dedicated freight corridors.

Considering the importance of the project for economic growth, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is monitoring progress of construction of the exclusive freight corridors.

It is expected that operationalisation of freight corridors will lead to shifting of freight traffic from road to low carbon intensive transport mode.


LED signals to enhance visibility at level crossings

Southern Railway will provide LED signals at level crossing gates and yards to ensure better visibility in all mainline signals and prevent mishaps, Southern Railway General Manager Deepak Krishan said on Thursday.

Addressing the 57 Railway Week Celebrations of Southern Railway, Mr. Krishan said LED installations had been completed at 296 stations so far, of which 90 LED signals were provided in 2011-12.

Southern Railway, conferred the national-level shield for safety-related works and train punctuality, also expects to shortly complete the installation of the Integrated Security System at 14 select stations, including Chennai Central. The integrated system was expected to bring about improvements in passenger safety and security through state-of-the-art surveillance, he said.

According to Mr. Krishan, while the tragedy at Arakkonam, where ten lives were lost when an EMU rammed a stationary train, was most unfortunate, what equally raises concern was the loss of lives and injuries due to negligence of road users, especially while crossing unmanned level crossings. Of the seven consequential accidents last year, four occurred at unmanned level crossings, he said.

Apart from awareness campaigns that involved sending 85 lakh SMSes, issue of pamphlets and screening of short films at railway terminals, the Railways is phasing out unmanned level crossings from the system, he said. In addition to the closure of 78 unmanned level crossings by providing alternate limited height subways or diversion of road, 37 such crossings had been upgraded to manned crossings.

So far, the achievement of eliminating 115 of the 1,127 unmanned level crossings was a record and had earned a shield from the Railway Board, he said.