Thousands die each year crossing India's railway tracks

The Indian government is being urged to replace all railroad crossings with bridges or overpasses and to increase fencing and barricading along railway tracks. [AFP]
PHOTO

The Indian government is being urged to replace all railroad crossings with bridges or overpasses and to increase fencing and barricading along railway tracks. [AFP]

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Safety report highlights Indian rail crossing danger

Created: 01/03/2012

Kanaha Sabapathy

Last Updated: Thu, 1 Mar 2012 21:07:00 +1100

A scathing new report on the safety of India's railways has revealed at least 15,000 people a year die trying to cross the country's railway tracks.

India's network consists of 64 thousand kilometres of railway track cutting through some of the most densely populated Indian cities.

Often they dissect shanty towns that lead into the cities and people living on either side often have no choice but to walk across the tracks.

In 2009, 25,700 people died in rail related accidents, Professor Raghuram, a train expert at the Indian Institute of Management, says the majority of fatalities were people trying to cross the tracks.

"For example the Mumbai suburban area where the Indian railways operate suburban trains, 3,500 people die in a year, of which about 70 per cent are people who cross the tracks," he said.

"Now the Indian railways does not even recognise this as their responsibility, and that's a big concern, because what they say is that these people are actually doing it illegally in spite of warnings that are being posted and so on, which at the legalistic level is indeed true.

"But then the point is if anybody can do something about preventing this, it is the Indian railways."

In its report, the High Level Safety Review Committee, has called on the government to replace all railroad crossings with bridges or overpasses and to increase fencing and barricading along railway tracks.

Professor Raghuram says if there are overhead bridges and lighting along suburban tracks at night the number of deaths can be reduced.

But he says there is a reluctance on the part of the rail authorities to do more than what is expected of them under the Railway Act.

"The top management of Indian Railways, which is called the Railway Board, is de facto also the Ministry of Railways, and they just go by the Indian Railway Act and obviously they have no incentive to give themselves a tougher Act to respond to," he said.

"So unless the citizens at large or independent entities, like the Planning Commission on the Prime Minister's office takes this up, we only have an independent body who does investigations.

"But their recommendations again, they're only recommendations, they're not required to be implemented."

India's rail network is the fourth largest in the world, with at least 20 million people using the trains daily.

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