Over 1,200 killed on tracks in Bengaluru Division in two years

BENGALURU: A total of 1,253 people were killed on tracks in South Western Railways’ Bengaluru division over the past two years, data compiled by the government railway police (GRP) show. The division includes areas such as Dharmavaram, Mandya, Kuppam, Tumakuru, Dharmapuri and Hindupur, apart from the city. The data shows 620 people died in 2016, while the figure of causalities was marginally higher in 2017 with 633 deaths.

A Union government railways’ safety panel, in 2012, had recommended more bridges and overpasses be constructed on priority. Six years on, people still die on railways tracks across the nation. Authorities claim most casualties are due to negligence, but the railways’ track record in ensuring safety of pedestrians and passengers is far from enviable. Last year, the central government announced plans for the country’s first bullet train. It is a huge leap, not just in terms of infrastructure, but in terms of faith in the railways too. But perhaps it needs to get the basics right too.

While there was little to separate the number of accidents in two years (701 in 2016 and 702 in 2017), the number of people injured reduced from 81 in 2016 to 69 in 2017. Of the total fatalities reported in 2017, a majority — 270 — occurred while crossing tracks (trespassing), while others included falling from trains (54 deaths) and slipping through platform gaps (seven).

Underestimated train speed

GRP officials say most accident victims underestimated the speed of approaching trains while crossing tracks. In many instances, victims were found to be wearing headphones and listening to music while crossing.

However, many regular passengers say stations like Hoodi, Carmelaram, Heelalige, Anekal, Krishnadevaraya, Hebbal and Jnanabharathi do not have foot over-bridges, forcing people to cross the track and making them vulnerable to accidents.

Sanjeev Dyamannavar, a railway activist, said passengers are at risk in the absence of foot over-bridges. “Suburban services are gaining in popularity and the railways should ensure safety of passengers,” he said. “The proposed foot over-bridge at Hoodi railway station, which is expected to be completed in a few months, will be a relief to passengers.”

Bengaluru City worst hit

A committee constituted by the Bangalore division, which conducted a study to identify stations and sections which record the most accidents, revealed stations like Bengaluru East, Bengaluru City, Hindupur (located in Andhra Pradesh but falls in Bengaluru division), Kamasamudram and Chikkabanawara are the most deadly.

The vulnerable sections in Bangalore division include Bangalore East-Cantonment, Carmelaram-Hosur, Varadapura-Kuppam, Mandya-Pandavapura and Yeshwantpur-Chikkabanavara. “Some of these stretches are densely populated,” the report states. “People often cross tracks as a short cut and come under trains due to negligence.” The committee has suggested that a boundary wall be constructed at these sections.

In Dharmapuri, Bengaluru City, BEML/KGF and Krishnarajapuram, the committee found passengers who turn up late put themselves at risk by attempting to board running trains. “We have decided to intensify awareness among passengers, track-side dwellers and farmers,” said a senior South Western Railway official.