Published:  11:24 AM, 06 August 2022

Unprotected Railway Level Crossings Are Death Traps

Unprotected Railway Level Crossings Are Death Traps

Bangladesh Railway is a state-owned and state-run railway transport company of Bangladesh. Since last 1990, this organization is running its activities under the Ministry of Railways. At present, railways are running in the country with a total of 25 thousand 83 regular employees with a total of 2 thousand 955.53 km of routes. Basically, I think this railway is one of the main means of transportation system of the country. Because rail travel is very safe and comfortable for most of the passengers. So most of the passengers prefer this train as a mode of travel. But the question is how much the railway authorities are able to ensure the quality of railway services and overall safety of passengers? Although the reality is that there are hundreds of unprotected level crossings in the country, one after another railway accidents, corruption in railways, black market and various irregularities, naturally there is an alarming situation in the mind of the passengers regarding railways. It is disrupting the overall progress of the railways. Similarly, such accidents are losing the confidence of passengers towards railways. It is important that this situation be resolved quickly.

Especially the information that comes out about the unprotected level crossings in the country in the news published in various newspapers every day is very scary. According to the news published recently in the newspaper, the number of legal crossings on the 2 thousand 877 km railway across the country is 1 thousand 412; Of these, 946, ie 67 percent, have no gates! There is not even a traffic control staff. No indicator light. Apart from this, due to the lack of coordination in the work of various agencies including illegal constructions, haat-bazaar, road construction by local people over the railway line, a large number of death traps have been created on the railway. 

In such a reality, it is necessary to take visible initiative and fast implementation of the authorities to increase the quality of the overall service of the railway and ensure safety. According to an annual report of Bangladesh Railways, it is estimated that 72 percent of rail accidents in Bangladesh are due to human error, 23 percent due to mechanical error and the remaining 5 percent due to unsafe level crossings and careless crossing of level crossings by vehicle drivers and pedestrians. Human errors include - error or negligence of locomasters, stationmasters and managers and reckless running of trains. Mechanical faults occur due to locomotive faults, faulty tracks and signal systems.

Recently, a case has been registered in the case of the death of 11 passengers of a tourist microbus after being hit by a train in Chittagong's Mirsrai. A case was registered in this regard at the Chittagong Railway Police Station last Friday night. The railway police filed the case accusing the gatekeeper Saddam Hussain of negligence of duty. 11 passengers of the microbus were killed on the spot when they were hit by the Chittagong-bound Prabhati from Dhaka while returning from seeing the Khaiachhara waterfall. Seven others were injured. The condition of five of them is critical. Eastern Railway Divisional Transport Officer Ansar Ali said, A microbus carrying tourists from Dhaka to Chittagong got on the line before crossing the level crossing. After the collision, the microbus got stuck with the engine of the train. In that situation, the train stopped after pushing the microbus quite a bit. Such brutal accidents cannot be accepted every now and then. Although such accidents have been happening for a long time, but unfortunately, no remedy has been found yet.

According to the data, 281 people died in 310 accidents at level crossings during 2008-2019. 13 people died in 9 accidents from January to October 2020. However, a train accident in 1972 caused massive casualties. On June 4, 1972, a crowded passenger train from Khulna collided with a freight train standing at a station in Jessore district. 76 people were killed and 500 were injured. Almost seven years later, on January 26, 1979, a train derailed and overturned in Chuadanga, killing 70 and injuring 300. Then on January 15, 1989, a northbound mail train collided with a Chittagong bound express train in Gazipur district. On the occasion of Vishwa Ijtema at Tongi, both trains had a total of over 2,000 passengers, many of whom were traveling on the roof or between the coaches. At least 170 people were killed and 400 injured in this accident.

From January 1 to July 24 this year, 31 people have died due to accidents at various level crossings in the country and more than three hundred people have died in the last 10 years. Not only accidents, loss of life and loss of property occur at illegal level crossings, accidents also occur frequently at legal crossings. In such a reality, defective level crossings should be secured as soon as possible. Although these have been left unguarded over the years, it has been seen that the various parties involved have passed the blame on each other.

After saying so much, why are the level crossings of the country not being made safe and why are the illegal ones not being closed? Bangladesh is number one in the list of railway accidents due to level crossings in the world. Currently, about 95 percent of railway accidents occur at various level crossings. The main reason for this is that at least 85 percent of legal level crossings have no guards. Apart from this, the increasing number of illegal establishments on the railways, the condition of bazaars is making the railway service system worse. Because they don't even have any barriers. Of the numerous unprotected level crossings in the country, the only one that has been done at Namkawasti is that the Railway Department has ended its duty by hanging a notice. Which is gross indifference to their duties.

Pedestrians and vehicle drivers also cannot escape responsibility for accidents at level crossings. Two main causes of death on railways are accidents at level crossings and being run over by trains. The Railway Authority does not take any responsibility if it is cut under the train; Instead, a case was filed against the deceased. 

On the other hand, level crossings try to avoid liability in case of accidents. Needless to say, apart from loss of life and property damage due to accidents, train schedules are disrupted. Because of this, passenger suffering increases; In addition, the railways have to bear losses. Level crossings must be secured to prevent accidents and damage. Everyone should be careful while crossing the level crossing. It is expected that the authorities will take steps to secure the level crossings by appointing the necessary manpower besides making people aware of the rules and laws.

Recently, five people were killed when a bus carrying garment factory workers collided with a train at Sreepur in Gazipur. At least 10 people were seriously injured in this incident. Sreepur Railway Station Master said that the Balaka train leaving Dhaka crossed Sreepur Railway Station at around 7:30. After that, a collision with the bus took place at Maizpara level crossing. It is also known that this is also an unprotected level crossing.

When a bus carrying workers was crossing the railway line in Maijpara area, the bus was hit by the train. And there was no gatekeeper at that level crossing at the time of the accident. There was no signal light for the train coming. Similarly, on June 4, three passengers of a pickup van were killed and two others were injured after being hit by a train at Amirganj, Raipura, Narsingdi. It is seen that due to lack of awareness on one side unprotected level crossings, on the other hand even in protected level crossings there are loss of lives, which is sad. Visible, how unsafe the railways of Bangladesh are and how vulnerable its security system is becomes clear by observing these accidents at different times. An analysis of railway police accident data reveals, Pedestrians suffer the highest number of fatalities at all types of level crossings, unprotected and protected. However, there are not few cases of death due to being crushed by the train and being knocked down by the train at the level crossing. 74 people were killed in 33 accidents at level crossings in the last one year. And this number does not include those who died on the railway line. According to railway data, most of the unauthorized level crossings across the country are on Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) roads. 

There are also Municipalities, Union Parishads, City Corporations and Roads and Public Ways (SOAZ) roads. Level crossings are created due to the construction of roads on railway lines by more or less five agencies of the government. We think that all concerned will take the issue of unprotected level crossing seriously and take necessary measures. Most of the unauthorized level crossings across the country are on Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) roads. There are also Municipalities, Union Parishads, City Corporations and Roads and Public Ways (SOAZ) roads. Level crossings are created due to the construction of roads on railway lines by more or less five agencies of the government. We think that all concerned will take the issue of unprotected level crossing seriously and take necessary measures. Most of the unauthorized level crossings across the country are on Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) roads. There are also Municipalities, Union Parishads, City Corporations and Roads and Public Ways (SOAZ) roads. Level crossings are created due to the construction of roads on railway lines by more or less five agencies of the government. We think that all concerned will take the issue of unprotected level crossing seriously and take necessary measures.

Apart from this, the vehicles and pedestrians are illegally crossing the railway lines without the permission of the railways. We think that by observing the overall situation, concerned parties will be more diligent in taking necessary steps and implementing them properly as soon as possible. With 67 per cent unprotected level crossings at various places in the country, railway accidents are happening one after the other due to various defects, these need to be taken into account - as well as ensuring comprehensive measures to secure level crossings and avoid accidents. All kinds of irregularities to restore the confidence of passengers in railways, Ticket black market must be stopped forever. Safety of life of passengers should be ensured. Because there will be one accident after another and people will not go back to the country of return - this cannot be desirable in any way. All kinds of visible initiatives should be taken and implemented to ensure the overall safety of passengers including securing level crossings subject to monitoring the overall situation. Which I think is more important in improving the quality of railway services along with gaining trust. Railway authorities will give more attention to the issues - that is desirable.

Author-Columnist & Former Head PRD at BUFT




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