Year after train tragedy, Bahanaga railway over bridge yet to become reality

The promises made by Railway Min Ashwini Vaishnaw and the state government to build this critical infrastructure notwithstanding, the project is yet to take off leaving the residents aggrieved.
The rush at the level crossing near Bahanaga railway station
The rush at the level crossing near Bahanaga railway station Photo | Express

BHUBANESWAR: Even as a year has passed since the train tragedy at Bahanaga, the much-needed over bridge near the local railway station continues to remain a distant dream. The tragic crash involving three trains had killed 296 passengers and left 607 injured.

The promises made by Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and the state government to build this critical infrastructure notwithstanding, the project is yet to take off leaving the local residents aggrieved.

The demand for the railway road over bridge (ROB) is not new. Locals have been advocating for it since 2017 citing safety concerns and the need to alleviate traffic congestion caused due to the level crossing. Over the years, their pleas have fallen on deaf ears, and despite assurances from government officials, little progress has been made on the proposed project.

In the aftermath of the train mishap, the railway minister had assured to prioritise construction of the ROB to prevent unnecessary traffic snarls and improve overall safety in the area. But surprisingly, no step has been taken in this regard.

Bahanaga sarpanch Brajendra Panda said, “The minister had assured construction of the ROB after realising the suffering of people in the area on the other side of the level crossing, which was sealed for almost a fortnight during restoration of railway tracks after the tragedy. He seems to have forgotten it after normalcy was restored.”

Convenor of Gopalpur Nagarik Manch Sudarsan Mohapatra said after several persuasions, the Indian Railways had agreed to construct the ROB at 50:50 cost sharing basis in 2019 and informed the Works department of Odisha to submit a detailed project report.

“Accordingly, the department prepared the DPR and the railways sanctioned its 50 per cent share. But there has been no action or communication from the state side. The railway minister had promised us to coordinate with the state government and get it done. A year has passed but no tangible progress has been made,” he lamented.

More than one lakh people residing on the other side of the level crossing are forced to suffer during movement of trains as the gate remains closed several times in a day causing inordinate delays to ambulance, fire brigade and school students, who are forced to stand in the open under the scorching sun and during heavy rains.

“Had there been an ROB, the rescue operation during the train accident would have been much smoother and faster and we might have saved more lives,” Mohapatra added.

Sources in South Eastern Railway said Rs 51.5 crore has been sanctioned for the ROB. Executive engineer (R&B), Balasore Bankim Panda said the `130 crore project will go to tender after the model code of conduct is lifted.

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