THE incident of a locomotive hitting two standing compartments as the brake failed while changing position at the Kaunia railway station in Rangpur brings to the fore the issue of ill maintenance of trains, which is responsible for many accidents. At least one person was killed and 30 others were injured in the accident, which also points to the carelessness of the railway staff and the locomaster. The accident took place when a locomotive hit the standing compartments of the Uttarbanga Mail on the Santahar-Panchagarh route. Such negligence and carelessness on part of the locomaster and technical staff is unacceptable. It was mandatory for the locomaster and technical staff to check whether everything was in operation before changing position. Poor and ill maintenance of locomotives and railway and the mismanagement of level crossings, which are responsible for most of the train accidents, have continued to make the headlines. But, it seems, attention has not been given to the issue. A report prepared by the Shipping and Communications Reporters’ Forum says that most of the 202 train accidents in January–June which left 209 people dead in 2019 were caused by poor maintenance either of the locomotives or railway or level crossing mismanagement, along with lack of people’s awareness of the use of level crossings.
The Kaunia accident is a certain indicator of negligence, this time, of the locomotive. Railway authorities, after a primary inquiry, have held the locomaster responsible for the accident which, they seek to say, was caused by carelessness and negligence. Railway staff responsible should know that any carelessness on their part can claim human lives and cause injuries. At the same time, proper maintenance of railway also has to be ensured. In the recent past, a number of derailments, which account for 91 per cent of train accidents, killed many. The 2013 Bangladesh Railway Information Book says that at least 1,474 incidents of derailment took place between July 2008 and June 2013 and at least 140 people lost their lives because of such incidents. The recent such incident, which killed five and injured 67, happened when five compartments of the Dhaka-bound Upaban Express, coming from Sylhet, veered off the railway on June 23. An investigation found the engineering department responsible for the accident. The other major cause of train accident is unprotected level crossings. According to a survey that the Accident Research Institute conducted in 2018, the number of level-crossing accidents was 232, which left 242 people dead.
The government and the railway department must, under the circumstances, come out of their apparent indifference to railway accidents with a comprehensive strategy and a multi-pronged approach to bring order in the railway system. The proper maintenance of locomotives and railway and the proper management of level crossings must be ensured to arrest train accidents.
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