Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Railways wakes up to eliminate 80 unmanned crossings


Thiruvananthapuram/Alappuzha: The public ire over the mishap that snuffed out five lives on Sunday at an unmanned level crossing (ULC) near Aroor railway station seems to have forced the railways to spring into action. 
    Not only has the railways deployed a temporary guard at the level crossing, it has also decided to eliminate all the 80 ULCs under the Thiruvananthapuram division by 2013. Divisional railway manager (DRM) Rajesh Agarwal said at the state capital that out of the 80 ULCs, 30 will be converted into manned ones. “The rest will be closed as no construction works can be carried out in many places,” he said. 
    Meanwhile, the swift action by the railways to convert the ULC near Aroor station into a manned one on Sunday itself has raised many eyebrows. But the DRM quickly pointed out that the railways had already plans to convert this ULC into a manned one. Two years ago, the authorities set up a building for the gatekeeper and even brought the required equipment to make the level crossing a manned one, but the plan did not take off as the state government failed to provide with water and power supply. “On Sunday night, the government provided us with both power and water,” Agarwal said. 
    He said that in Alappuzha out of the 22 ULCs, the railways will close 12 and convert the remaining 10 into manned railway gates. “Based on a consensus with the local bodies, we have also decided to close ULC number 108 and 16,” he said. 
    Pointing out that the sudden closure of ULCs may discomfort the locals, he said that an opinion of the local authorities will be sought before closing them down. “If needed, the 
railways will provide land to construct alternate roads near these crossings,” he said. 
    He also criticized the state government for going slow on the construction of road overbridges to avert mishaps at ULCs. “We are willing to share up to 50% of the construction cost if the government comes over to build ROBs, provided they use latest technologies. Talks are on with the government on this issue,” he said. 
    The DRM made it clear the railways will not compensate the kin of the accident victims as it was not the mistake of the loco-pilot. Meanwhile, the dawn-to-noon hartal called by LDF in Aroor grama panchayat on Monday was total. District panchayat president Prathiba Hari said though the district has three Union ministers, ULCs continue to death traps. “After this accident, the railways quickly converted it into a manned one. It shows that railways is waiting for a mishap to act” she said. 

Three-member panel to probe accident Kochi: The railways has appointed a three-member committee to probe into the accident at an unmanned level crossing near Aroor railway station. It will be headed by Ernakulam railway area manager Ashok Kumar and will have a member each from electrical and engineering wings from Thiruvananthapuram railway division. 
    “The panel will start the probe on Tuesday and complete it in seven days,” said S Anantharaman, chief safety officer, Southern Railway, Chennai. 
    Meanwhile, Satheesh Kumar Mittal, commissioner of railway safety, said he had sanctioned the manning of the railway gate near Aroor station on July 30. 
All 80 ULCs under TVM division to be eliminated by 2013 30 ULCs to be converted into manned ones In Alappuzha, 12 ULCs will be closed Remaining 10 to be made manned gates Railways ready to foot up to 50% of ROB construction cost 

KEY FINDINGS OF RAILWAY SAFETY COMMITTEE Level crossing accidents contribute to 65% deaths & 38% injuries of the total rail mishaps of all types 
There are 14,896 unmanned level crossings in the country 

RECOMMENDATION TO RLY MINISTRY Eliminate all 32,735 level crossings in the country by creating a Rs 50,000-crore special purpose vehicle to build overbridges & underpasses

I have no update on what steps are being taken to implement the report. It is possible to implement the recommendations. But I don’t know the stand of the railway ministry on this report. Railways can save up to 7,000 crore a year by eliminating all level crossings and the investment cost can be recovered in 7-8 years
Anil Kakodkar | CHAIRMAN, SAFETY 


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