Saturday, July 26, 2014

Unmanned level crossing accidents result in 59% deaths as per Railways' High Level Committee Report

The tragedy of an unmanned level crossing in Hyderabad, killing 17 school children on Thursday, exposes the negligence of Indian Railways in eliminating such crossings as recommended by its own expert committee of 2012

Vinita Deshmukh
By Vinita Deshmukh
Precious lives of school children were lost when the Nanded-Secunderabad passenger train, collided with a school bus at an unmanned railway crossing in Medak on Thursday morning. Almost all news television channels barely addressed this grave issue in the prime time slots in the evening.
The media, especially television news that dominates the news scene, not questioning incidents as horrendous and tormenting as this mishap, that occur with unfailing irregularity, helps authorities to continue being unaccountable and irresponsible, in this case, the Indian Railways
The accident took place on Thursday at 9.10 am at the unmanned railway crossing between Masayipet and Wadiaram Railway station on the Secunderabad-Nizamabad section of Hyderabad division. The dead driver of the school bus has been booked for negligence under several IPC and Indian Railways Act code. One wonders, when and if at all, action will be taken against the powers-that-be in the Indian Railways for going slow on recommendations to totally eliminate unmanned railway crossing by 2017, as per the High Level safety review Committee Report. 2012, instituted by the Ministry of Railways. The Press Information Bureau report here of August 23rd mentions about progressive elimination of unmanned railway crossings to a question posed in Rajya Sabha.
The committee report has recommended ``total elimination of all level crossings (manned and unmanned) within five years at an estimated cost of Rs.50,000 crore which will get recovered over 7-8 years due to saving in operation and maintenance costs and improved train operation.’’ This recommendation has come, after the committee’s observations that advanced warning safety equipments which were installed at several such crossings failed ``due to thefts.’’
The committee chaired by Dr. Anil Kakodkar, former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy and E. Sreedharan, Managing Director, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has recommended `` dedicated and empowered SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) for each Railway zone’’ meaning an exclusive outfit, maybe in public-private partnership to achieve the goal within 5 years, that is, 2017.
The committee report also shows that 42% of the total casualties due to railway accidents pertain to unmanned level crossing. The report states: `` Unmanned Level Crossing accidents which are 36% of the total tally resulted in 59% deaths and 32% injuries (42% total casualties).’’  Unmanned level crossings are vulnerable to accidents between 8 a m to 7 p m says the report.
As per the report title `Level crossing scenario of Indian Railways’ presented at a London conference on Railway safety in 2012, safety experts Sandeep Jain, Director(Safety) and Alok Kumar Jt Director (safety)of Ministry of Railways mentioned the reasons for accidents at unmanned railway crossings. They write: ``The primary causes of accidents at unmanned level crossings include failure of road users’ mis-adventure to cross level crossings in the face of an approaching train; road vehicles getting stalled at the locations; rash driving of un-licensed tractor drivers etc. Accidents at level crossings happen primarily because the road users do not respect the right of way of railways.
``It is observed that the road vehicle drivers misjudge the speed of trains due to the fact that human reaction time is 2.5 seconds which is just enough to coordinate the reflexes against speed of 60-70 kmph. However trains on Indian railways are plying at about 100-120 kmph for which the reaction time is inadequate. Road users continue to cross the tracks even if the train is visible and approaching causing leading to level crossing accidents.’’
  • Indian Railways is one of the largest Railway Network of the world under a single administration i.e. Government of India
  • Indian Railways has 64460 route Kilometres out of which 55189 KM is broad gauge and balance 14% is meter/narrow gauge. It has 7133 block stations, 53220 passenger coaches and 9213 locomotives
  • Indian Railways carry about 1000 million tonnes of freight traffic per year and around 23 million passengers per day. Indian Railways employ around 1.3 million staff in the 17 zonal railways and 69 Divisions.
  • There are a total of 31846 level crossings spanning over 64460 route kilometers i.e.average of 49 level crossings per 100 kilometers in Indian Railways
  • Out of these, 13,530 are unmanned and 18,316 are manner
  • On an average there are 49 level crossings per 100 kilometers in Indian Railways
  • Out of 18316 manned level crossing 9,978(54%) are interlocked i.e. protected by a Gate Signal as an additional Layer of Safety.
  • As per Ministry of Railways report, the following technological innovations are being worked on:
  • ANTI COLLISION DEVICE (ACD) : The Anti-Collision Device (ACD) has already been provided on 1736 Route KM at a cost of one billion INR, which also provides additional safety shield at manned and unmanned level crossings, through an audio-visual indication to road users. Moreover, in case of emergent needs, gate men at manned level crossings will be able to reduce the speed of an approaching train to prevent an accident at the crossing.
  • TRAIN ACTUATED WARNING DEVICE (TAWD) : Development of a reliable Train Actuated Warning Device (TAWD) for giving audio/ visual warning to road users about an approaching train has been under process on IR to reduce accidents at unmanned level crossings. Field trials have been carried out to prove its reliability and fail-safe feature, apart from suitability and miscreant prone environment. The trials have been completed and few designs have been found suitable.The writer has referred to these two links: 1 and 2


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