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Unmanned level crossings a death trap

  • Published at 12:54 pm August 1st, 2014
Unmanned level crossings a death trap

Accidents on the railway tracks mainly at level crossings have become frequent in the country, causing deaths and injuries to people as well as damages to properties due to illegal level crossings, lack of gatekeepers and public unawareness.

According to the Bangladesh Railway officials, 80% out of total 2,541 level crossings had been illegally set up in different places across the country while the Bangladesh Railway had gatekeepers at less than 15% of level crossings.

Sources in the Bangladesh Railway said at least 201 people were killed and 349 others injured in 264 accidents at different level crossings in last seven years till 2013.

Apart from the deaths of 11 people and injuries to 39 others in Jhenidah yesterday, at least four people were killed and 20 others injured on April 27 when a train hit a bus at Titipara level crossing near Kamalapur railway station in the capital.

According to the official statistics, 85% of 2,541 level crossings across the country is unmanned.

Tafazzal Hossain, director general of the Bangladesh Railway, told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday that only 1,413 out of total 2,541 level crossings were set up by the Railway Department while the rest were  illegal.

He said different bodies had illegally constructed 1,128 level crossings  in different places across the country.

According to sources, these illegal level crossings were constructed by different government bodies such as Local Government Engineering Division, Roads and Highways Department, city corporations and district councils without taking permission from the railway authorities. Some private organisations had also built many level crossings illegally.

Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, the Bangladesh Railway's director general  admitted the limitations of his department saying, “Only 379 out of 1,413 authorised level crossings have gatekeepers and there are no gatekeepers for the rest.”

He said they were doing their level best to appoint gatekeepers to all the level crossings gradually. In reply to a query, he said it was not possible to close the level crossings built illegally.

“Accidents may take place at level crossings even after having the gatekeepers as in many cases, they do not perform their duties properly,” he said, adding that they remain absent at level crossings while the trains cross the railway lines.

Tafazzal said, “We have suspended the stationmaster of Borobazar Station and two gatekeepers for neglect of duty.”

He also blamed the mass people for the accidents, saying that in many cases, the drivers of different vehicles and pedestrians do not want to obey the rules.

“Not only the gate men, the mass people have also faults. Some time gatekeepers do not carry out their duties, but the drivers and mass people are often found crossing the railway lines defying the signals,” he added.  

The railway officials said most of the train accidents against vehicles and persons occur at illegal level crossings due to failure to decrease speed.

The train accidents occurred at level crossings without safety fences and most were said to have been caused by motorists or pedestrians failing to follow traffic safety laws.

The drivers and pedestrians have a tendency not to follow the rules while crossing the rail lines, the officials added. 

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