NEW DELHI: Indian railways did away with at least 11 of its thousands of unmanned level crossings every day during the past 10 months to eliminate these death traps.
The last such crossing on broad-gauge lines was converted into a gated one in Allahabad on Thursday, the same day railway minister Piyush Goyal confirmed in his budget speech that these unmanned crossings were a thing of the past.
‘2018 school van accident put manned crossing project on a war footing’
According to railway ministry officials, an accident on April 16, 2018 involving a school van at such a crossing on Kaptanganj-Thawe section in UP that claimed 13 lives was the turning point for putting the focus on quickly doing away with these crossings.
“The ministry had told the Parliament these crossings would be a thing of past by March 2020. But work on a war footing was undertaken to complete the task earlier after the accident,” said an official. The number of accidents at unmanned level crossings has been at an all-time low at only three during this fiscal as compared to 65 in 2009-10.
Sources said in most of the cases either mechanised or manual system of operating gates have been operationalised to stop vehicles from crossing the tracks when trains go past these spots. They added at some crossing, they have route relay interlocking system where the rail traffic flow is higher.
Officials said the railways had zeroed down on four models to eliminate the crossings including merger with another level crossing by constructing diversion road, construction of subway or rail under bridge and manning. The last option was found to be most cost effective and less time taking. Building rail under and over bridges often require land acquisition and other permissions.
“At all manned crossings, the attendants have been deployed who work in shifts and they have been trained properly for the operational responsibilities. The activities involved in manning were provision of gate hut/porta cabins, lifting barrier/ swing gates, telephones and preparation of engineering plan to name a few,” a railway spokesperson said.
He added for timely elimination of UMLCs all general managers were empowered to take decision such as tendering system, grant traffic blocks, speed restriction, sanction of work and technical decisions regarding manning and interlocking.
Moreover, railways deployed ex-servicemen after proper training. “Till removal of all UMLCs, Gate Mitras were deployed at all these spots to counsel the road users,” said an official.
Railway minister Piyush Goyal on Friday had said safety remains the primary focus of the national transporter.