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Human error behind 72% rail accidents in Bangladesh

  • Published at 12:28 am November 15th, 2019
B-baria train accident
Locals and fire fighters conducting rescue operation at the scene of the accident near Mondobhag Railway Station in Kasba upazila of Brahmanbaria, in November 12, 2019 Courtesy of Md Sohag

Unprotected railroad crossings, the careless crossing of rail tracks by vehicle drivers and pedestrians accounted for 5% of the accidents

Human errors are accountable for 72% of the rail accidents in Bangladesh, according to a report of Bangladesh Railway. The next reason behind the accidents is mechanical failure, which leads to 23% of the rail accidents

Human error includes negligence or mistake by the driver, stationmaster and guard, reckless driving and mechanical failure occurs due to the malfunctioning of locomotives, defective tracks, and the signal system. 

Unprotected railroad crossings, the careless crossing of rail tracks by vehicle drivers and pedestrians accounted for 5% of the accidents

While talking to Dhaka Tribune, Bangladesh Railway Director General Md Shamsuzzaman said 72% of accidents occurred due to human error while negligence of drivers and stationmasters is the main cause behind fatal accidents.

However, Railway Minister Nurul Islam Sujan said careless crossing of vehicles and pedestrians gear up the rail accident significantly.

According to the annual report of the Bangladesh Railway, the organization operates with a huge shortage of loco masters, stationmasters and guards. It is being operated with only one-third of the required manpower so far. Even the officials bound to put in extra effort to ensure train operation among the destinations. 

The technical staff including stationmasters and loco masters do not get sufficient training due to the lack of experienced trainers, and even sometimes cannot attend training as they are overloaded with work. 

The curriculum of the training manual is also not updated due to the lack of experts in this sector. 

As directed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the ministry is going to take up a separate project to improve maintenance of the railway properties, and building capacity of the staff through revise training methodology, Railway Minister Nurul Islam Sujan said.

“We are planning to communicate with Chinese and Indian training institutes to improve training facilities,” said Mofazzel Hossain, Secretary to the Railway Ministry.

Shortage of manpower

There are around 3,493 posts of loco master, sub loco master and assistant loco master, stationmaster, assistant station master, and guard inside the railways. At present, there are 2,274 staff with a scarcity of 1,219, hampering the day-to-day operation. 

“It is very common that drivers are being requested to do multiple trips due to the shortage of 608 loco masters and assistant loco masters. As a result, most of the time they have to work 14-22 hours instead of the permitted 8 hours a day,” said a railway official anomalously. 

The drivers run 380 trains covering around 3,155 kilometers across the country. 

Although selected stations have refreshing rooms for the drivers as they can take a rest and have standard food, they cannot avail of the facilities due to the sorry state of those rooms, mostly constructed before the Liberation War, according to the insiders.

On the other hand, a shortage of guards significantly affected the railway operations, as the role of a guard is similarly important. A guard not only provides support the loco master but also can stop a train if any emergency occurs. The guard also acts like a helping hand to prevent accidents. 

Although, the required number of station masters is 1,205, only 756 are working at present, according to the report.

Bangladesh Railway cannot operate 112 stations due to the shortage of station masters. 

As per the law, a station master and an assistant station master has always to be in their respective seats, but according to the roster, only one of them can perform the duty round the clock. 

However, the railway minister said: “It is not easy to fill the vacancy as there are some problems. According to the recruitment process, usually, we can recruit entry-level staff. Only when the staff are promoted, the new recruitment is possible. So, we cannot directly enroll any senior-level staff.”