Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fatal accidents at unmanned crossings, a cause for concern

R. Rajaram
The fatal accident on Tuesday at an unmanned level crossing near Pullambadi that claimed a life after a passenger train dashed against a tractor-trailer that had “trespassed” is the second such occurrence in Tiruchi railway division in the current fiscal.
Despite periodic safety campaigns and existence of norms, couple of fatal accidents within a span of two months has caused deep concern for railway authorities.
In the first accident in mid-December, the Mayiladuthurai-bound Jan Shatabdhi express rammed a car at an unmanned crossing between Kumbakonam and Aduthurai railway stations claiming the lives of two persons.
Surprisingly, the two fatal occurrences and another non-fatal accident at unmanned gates in different sections falling within the limits of Tiruchi division took place in broad daylight.
In all the three cases, road vehicles had “trespassed” into the railway track at the unmanned crossing, and negligence of its drivers had caused the accidents, say railway officials. The Government Railway Police had booked cases against erring road-vehicle drivers.
585 level crossings
Among the six railway divisions in the Southern Railway zone, Tiruchi has a high number of unmanned level crossings within its limit next only to Madurai. Encompassing 13 districts, Tiruchi division accounts for a total number of 585 level crossings of which 221 are unmanned.
The Cuddalore-Vriddhachalam and Puducherry-Villupuram BG sections are said to be “vulnerable” with most number of unmanned crossings at short distances.
Since trains always have the right of way on track, the onus is solely on road vehicles to strictly adhere to rules and exercise extreme caution before passing through an unmanned crossing, insist railway and railway police officers.
Railways Act
Section 161 of Railways Act, 1989, clearly states that any person driving or leading a vehicle negligently while crossing an unmanned level crossing shall be punishable with imprisonment that may extend to one year.
Railway officers say warning and stop boards have been installed on either side of every level crossing – manned or unmanned – in the division to alert the road vehicles. This is in addition to setting up speed breakers, a few metres from the track.
The safety department of the division had organised 77 awareness campaigns in the last two years highlighting the precautions to be followed while crossing an unmanned crossing.
Stick to the rules
The rule for every road vehicle at unmanned gate is to ‘stop, look, and then proceed’ at unmanned crossing.
Though unmanned crossing come under railway area, the written consent from the civil administration is mandatory for its permanent closure.
The divisional railway authorities has identified 40 unmanned level crossings across the division for closure and have written to the Collectors of the respective districts falling within Tiruchi division seeking their consent to check accidents at unmanned gates, say officials.
Unmanned crossings with over 3,000 Train Vehicle Units (TVU) per day are chosen for conversion into manned ones.
The TVUs are calculated based on the movement of three-wheelers, bullock carts, and four-wheelers multiplied by the number of trains passing through the section. Sanction has been obtained for manning 67 unmanned crossings in the division. Sixty-five other unmanned crossings are proposed to be converted as limited use subways, say officials.
Railway officers say that in addition to setting up speed breakers, warning and stop boards have been installed on either side of level crossings in the division to alert road vehicles, writes R.Rajaram


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