Unmanned Level Crossings Continue to be Death Traps
NEW DELHI: Despite its stated policy of eliminating all unmanned level crossings progressively, cash- strapped Railways is yet to put its act together to do away with these accident-prone spots resulting in frequent loss of lives on rail tracks.
With the death of five children today at an unmanned level crossing in Mau in Uttar Pradesh, the number of such deaths this year across the country rose to 94 raising question mark over the slow pace of work of putting an effective mechanism to prevent these mishaps.
At present there are 30,348 railway level crossings in the country of which 18,785 are manned and 11,563 unmanned.
According to Railway Ministry data, unmanned crossings are responsible for the maximum number of train accidents, around 40 per cent.
Recommending elimination of all unmanned crossings, a high -level safety review committee headed by Anil Kakodkar had suggested for a "dedicated and empowered SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) for each Railway zone to achieve the goal within 2017".
Besides Kakodkar, former Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy; former Delhi Metro chief E Sreedharan was also part of the committee.
"A total number of 4792 level crossings have been removed in the last five years," said a senior Railway Ministry official, adding "Ministry has decided to progressively eliminate all level crossings by a series of steps including construction of subways, rail overbridge and manning the level crossings."
He said the jobs are being done by respective zonal railways in coordination with respective state governments.
According to data, 65 accidents took place at unmanned crossings in 2009-10, 48 in 2010-11, 54 in 2011-12, 53 accidents in 2012-13 and 46 in 2013-14.
In 2011-12, accidents at the level crossings claimed 208 lives, while in 2012-13 the casualty figure was 124. Ninety- five people were killed at the level crossings in 2013-14.
Though there is no statutory liability of Railways in the Railway Act 1989 to pay compensation to the road users for death/injury in accidents at level crossings, the national transporter has paid compensation to the tune of crores for accidents at manned and unmanned level crossings.
Railways paid Rs 1,39,28,047 and Rs 12,97,108 as compensation to victims of accidents at unmanned and manned level crossings respectively up to November 20.
The official said accidents at level crossings happen primarily because the road users do not respect the right of way of Railways.