Unauthorised level crossings must be taken care of

Published: 00:00, Jan 05,2020


FATAL accidents in unguarded level crossings have been a cause of concern. On December 24, 2019 two labourers died as a train hit a trolley in the level crossing near Poradah junction in Kushtia. Two others died on the spot the same day after being hit by a train in the Nakhalpara level-crossing in Dhaka. The Bangladesh Railway says that 21 people died in 113 level crossing accidents in January–October 2019. Accident Research Institute records show that 239 people died and 470 others became injured in 217 level-crossing accidents. There are 2,497 level crossings and 43 per cent of them are unauthorised and 38 per cent unguarded. In some areas, level crossings are said to be dangerous and the BDR level crossing in Lalmonirhat is one such instance where 16 accidents left nine dead in two years. The death and accidents could be prevented if the authorities concerned took appropriate measures by ensuring the required human resources and taking care of unauthorised level crossings.

In the light of an increased number of fatalities, the National Economic Council approved plans to attend to unguarded and far-controlled level crossing system in 2015, but the projects were not implemented in time. The Bangladesh Railway acknowledges that the unguarded level crossings are fatally risky but says that deploying the human resources for every spot would become financially burdensome for an agency already running in losses, especially when unauthorised level crossing are set up every month. The proposition indicates regulatory failures. Local government agencies, city authorities and Roads and Highways Department are found responsible for a significant number of unauthorised level crossings. Urban planners and transport specialists have, therefore, blamed the lack of coordination between agencies and their reluctance at arresting the rising number of level-crossing death. As daily operation and maintenance of level crossings require coordination between the road transport and railway sectors, it cannot be the sole responsibility of the Bangladesh Railway. It is unacceptable that people would keep dying while authorities would not own up to their responsibilities.

In addition to speedy implementation of the projects already undertaken, the government should take drastic measures against unauthorised level crossings, bring all level crossings under its purview and employ trained personnel to supervise and operate level crossings. In so doing, it must define the roles and responsibilities of each agency with a stake in level crossing management. The Bangladesh Railway must also design a campaign to create awareness of the fatal consequence of not heeding traffic signal in level crossings.

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