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. The tragic death of five citizens including two children and their mothers at an unmanned level crossing in Gazipur speak to that grim reality. On Sunday, their car was going over unguarded Shonakhali level crossing in Kaliakoir when it was hit by Maitree Express at speed. The collision shattered the vehicle like a piece of glass and instantly killed all passengers. However shocking the accident was, such deaths are not uncommon in Bangladesh. In the same rail crossing, a passerby was killed not too long ago being hit by train. According to a New Age report on Monday, in 2016 alone 213 people were killed from accidents at different level crossings of Narayanganj-Dhaka-Joydebpur rail-roads. These deaths and accidents are easily preventable, if all concerned authorities including Bangladesh Railway take appropriate measure to improve the traffic safety at level crossings.
While the initiative of the National Economic Council and its approval of projects to construct and upgrade important level crossings of Bangladesh Railway is a welcome move, the snail paced project implementation raises question about the ultimate result of the project and commitment of the concerned authorities. In August 2015, two projects — Rehabilitation and Improvement of BR (East) Level Crossing Gates and Rehabilitation and Improvement of BR (West) Level Crossing Gates — were approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council. According to railway’s monthly progress report, as of December 2016, in both east and west zone, the physical progress of the projects is only between
13-15 per cent. Meanwhile, there exists 1,085 unauthorised and 2170 unmanned level crossings in Bangladesh that are causing death and injury on a routine basis. What is even more worrying is that often these unauthorised level crossings are 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.
In addition to speedy implementation of the projects already undertaken, the government should take drastic measures to stop any new installation of unauthorised level crossings, bring all that remains outside under its governmental purview and employ trained personnel to supervise and operate a level crossing round the clock.
In addition to Bangladesh Railway’s initiatives to include uncontrolled level crossings into its system, there is a need for public awareness. According to traffic safety research and monitoring organisations, 50 per cent of the train accident and death at level crossing happen due to the negligence of the jay-walking pedestrians as they defy traffic signals. Therefore, the Bangladesh Railway authority should also design a mass campaign to inform public about the fatal consequence of defying traffic signal at level crossing.
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