Railways urge Ministry of Finance for funds to remove Level Crossings in the Country

New Delhi:  Reeling under financial stress, Indian Railways has urged the finance ministry to increase its share from the Central Road Fund so that it can plough the additional funds into efforts to eliminate level crossings that account for 40% of rail accidents and 60% of all deaths due to rail mishaps, besides delaying trains.

Sources said the state-run transporter has sought a larger share from the Central Road Fund into the Railway Road Safety Fund, from INR 1,100 crore presently to around INR 3,000 crore to eliminate level crossings.

With a large number of casualties reported from accidents at level crossings, railway officials think the finance ministry may take a sympathetic view of the transporter’s plea.

Though the number of accidents at unmanned railway gates is increasing, railways yet to eliminate these death traps. It has set an ambitious target of eliminating 10,797 level crossings during the 12th five-year plan (2012-17) and not adding any new ones, but the biggest challenge is managing funds.

Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation (DFCC), executing UPA’s ambitious project of exclusive, high-speed freight corridor, alone needs INR 15,000 crore to make its tracks free of level crossings by building road over-bridges (ROBs) and road under-bridges (RUBs). DFCC has to build ROBs and RUBs at 998 locations.

While the corporation has decided to build 621 RUBs from its own funds, it is trying to rope in state governments to share 50% of the cost of ROBs and has asked railways to provide the rest of the money. “UP and Rajasthan has agreed to share the cost,” R K Gupta, MD, DFCC said.

At present, railways have 31,254 level crossings, around 40% of which are unmanned.

These unmanned crossings are responsible for around 40% of railway accidents. A high-level safety committee has suggested elimination of all level crossings (manned and unmanned) within five years which will cost INR 50,000 crore.

The cost will be recovered over 7-8 years due to savings in operation and maintenance costs, it said.