R Dutta Choudhury GUWAHATI, Sept 15 - Increasing number of people getting run over by speeding trains while crossing the railway tracks, particularly in Guwahati city, has become a cause of major concern and in majority of the cases, the victims of the accidents are to be blamed as negligence on their part led to the accidents. Though the Railways launched awareness drives from time to time, it is evident that a number of people are still not aware of the dangers that they face while crossing the railway tracks without taking adequate precautions.
The problem is more acute in Guwahati despite the fact that the city does not have even a single unmanned level crossing and interestingly, very rarely, the Railway authorities file cases against the “trespassers” though warning notices have been displayed in most of the level crossings. According to reports available, in the year 2015-16, 26 persons were run over and 33 were knocked down, while 40 fell down from trains in Guwahati city. So far this year, 27 persons were run over, seven were knocked down and eight fell down from trains.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, the Chief Public Relations Officer of the NF Railway, PJ Sharma said that in most of the cases of such accidents, the negligence of the victims is to be blamed. He said that there is no unmanned level crossing in Guwahati city and the crossing on the Rajgarh Road has been closed permanently following the construction of the Chandmari flyover. He said that though all the level crossings are manned, the gatemen are often assaulted by the public, who demand that the gates should be kept open till the trains come very close. Almost all the gates in the city are “signal gates” and the signals turn green only after the gates are closed. However, people keep crossing the level crossings even after the gates are closed and they never pay heed to the warnings by the gatemen. Moreover, whenever any train has to be stopped at any level crossing, a good number of people try to cross those by going under the trains, which is a very risky proposition and a good number of accidents take place while doing so.
Sharma pointed out that even if a driver of a train sees a person crossing the tracks, he cannot stop the train immediately. The minimum braking distance of a train is around a kilometre and sudden breaking can lead to derailment.
The NRF CPRO admitted that encroachment on both sides of the Railway tracks is another reason for such accidents in Guwahati city. In some places the encroachers are very close to the tracks, which very often lead to accidents. The minimum distance in which any construction can be made is 5.3 metres from the centre of the track, but the encroachers are only a few feet away from the tracks. Though the Railways launch eviction drives from time to time, the encroachers return within days and sometimes, the eviction drives also lead to major law-and-order problems.
On the possibility of construction of Railway over-bridges to deal with the problem, Sharma said that the level crossings having train-vehicle ratio of one lakh are qualified for construction of over-bridges. He said that several level crossings in the city might qualify for construction of over-bridges, but for construction of such bridges, the State government would have to bear 50 percent of the cost. Moreover, land acquisition would also be a major problem for construction of such bridges inside the city. He said that the same formula applies for construction of foot over-bridges over the railway tracks.
Sharma revealed that from time to time, the Railways launch awareness drives to educate the people about the precautions that they should take while crossing the Railway tracks and regular advertisements are issued through the print and electronic media. In the rural areas, steps have also been taken to distribute leaflets among the people, but it seems that a good number of people are still not aware of the dangers of crossing the Railway tracks without taking proper precautions.