85pc level crossings not safe

Anwar Hossain | Update:

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Eighty-five per cent of the railroad crossings are in a dangerous state as there is no lookout at 2,170 rail crossings out of 2,541 across the country.

Even, there is no traffic signal at more than the two thousand railway crossings of the 2,877-kilometre railways.

Analysing the information related to the accidents at the rail crossings, it has been known that pedestrians are mostly victims of the train accidents.

According to railway police (Dhaka region- Narayanganj, Dhaka, Gazipur and Tangail), 950 pedestrians were killed in rail crossings accidents during the period from 2010 through to September 2016. It seems that an average of 12 people died in the accidents per month.

Two days ago, five people, including two children, were killed as a Maitree Express train hit their car on an unmanned level crossing at Gazipur.

According to the railway authorities, 20 vehicles are crushed by trains every year causing 30 deaths.

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) professor of civil engineering department Samsul Haque said, “The accidents at the rail crossings are contrary to the idea of the railway communication. In future, number of railway crossings may increase with the increase of the population along the railroads. If it continues, more danger is coming.”

Shutting the rail crossings and making underpasses or overpasses at the crossings could be the possible solutions, he added.

Samsul Haque also said until it is not been possible to shut the existing rail crossings, building gates and appointing guards could be the preemptive solutions.

“If the railway authorities, local government and road transport authorities share the responsibility together, safety at the rail crossings may increase,” he added.

In 2009, two projects worth of Tk 970 million were proposed for appointing watchmen and building gates at the railway crossings, said railway sources.

But the authorities concerned took six years to approve the projects.

The projects suggested building a total of 672 railway gates and appointment of nearly 2,000 guards at the unsecured railway crossings.

Though the dateline of the projects is June this year, just 12 per cent of the project work has been done.

Who to ring the bell?

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Railway sources told Prothom Alo that number of level crossings are increasing day by day.

The railway authorities have no responsibility of the accidents as a cautionary note is put at the crossings, it added.

“There is no gateman at this crossing; the pedestrian should cross the railroad at their own responsibility. If any accident takes place, the victim must be fined,” reads a common such cautionary signboard.

According to the railway law, any person enters 20 feet within railway tracks, should be fined, said a railway official seeking anonymity.

Of the level crossings, some are approved by the railway authorities and some are unapproved.

According to the authorities, there are 1,413 approved and 1,128 unapproved level crossings across the country.

Nearly 74 per cent of the approved rail crossings has no gate or gateman. People are asked to cross the road at his or her responsibility, the railway sources added.

Eighty-seven per cent of the rail crossings are on the roads constructed by the Local Government and Engineering Department (LGED) and local union parishad.

According to the law, if any road constructed, the authorities concerned are responsible for building gate, appointing guard and all related things.

Asked about the safety at the railroad crossings, railway secretary Md Firoz Salahuddin told Prothom ALo that a job circular has been published for appointing guards at the approved crossings.

He hoped to complete appointment of nearly 1,500 guards in next three months.

*The article originally published in Prothom Alo print edition is rewritten in English by Toriqul Islam.

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