On way to Bangabandhu Bridge from Kamakkhar Mor area in Tangail’s Kalihati upazila, about 9.7 kilometres of highway has only a 10 to 12 foot-wide median between the train tracks running parallel with it.
Due to such a small safety distance, any time an accident takes place on either of the roads, the other road becomes susceptible to further accidents, leaving room for even additional damage and fatalities.
Furthermore, without any protective barrier or guardrail between the roads, vehicles veering off the busy highway are often ending up on the rail tracks, causing damage to the tracks as well as delay in rail communications, said Rezaul Karim, one of the station masters at Bangabandhu Bridge East Railway Station in Bhuapur.
To make matters worse, people getting on and off vehicles on the highway are putting themselves in harms way as they walk on the train tracks to keep themselves away from high level of noise on the highway, he said adding that death of pedestrians under train on the particular stretch of the tracks are rising alarmingly.
On last Thursday, train communications between Dhaka and northern districts remained suspended for a couple of hours since 6:30am when a goods-laden truck veered off the east link road of the Bangabandhu Bridge and damaged a 20-foot-long stretch of the adjacent rail tracks in Salla area of Kalihati upazila. The trucker and his assistant escaped with minor injuries.
A lorry driver was not as fortunate in another incident on January 22. He was killed and his assistant sustained injuries after the lorry was hit by a train. The lorry had landed on the train tracks moments after it collided head-on with a goods-laden truck in Analiabari area.
On April 21 in 2008, eighteen people died and 50 others were injured when the bus they were in skidded to a halt on the train tracks in Hatia area. Further fatalities were averted after a police constable from the local police station succeeded in stopping an oncoming train by waving a red flag.
Mosharraf Hossain, officer-in-charge of Bangabandhu Bridge East Police Station, said every day, more than 10 thousand vehicles ply the highway while at least 24 trains pass through the area.
As a means to keep accidents in check, a proper safety barrier should be placed alongside a 13-kilometre stretch of the highway from Elenga to Bangabandhu Bridge, he also said.
While speaking with this correspondent, Tangail Roads and Highways Department (RHD) Executive Engineer Amimul Ehsan also acknowledged the urgency of a safety barrier on the highway.
He also said under a project of Bangladesh Bridge Authority, the RHD will soon expand the highway into four lanes and all necessary safety measures has been incorporated in the project.
Confirming the development, Ahsanul Kabir Pavel, executive engineer of Bangladesh Bridge Authorities in its Tangail site, said a 42-inch-tall metal guardrail between the highway and the train tracks has been included in the design for the 13-kilometre stretch of the four-lane highway.
Several other road construction experts, however, recommended installing a Jersey barrier, a concrete barrier known as safer and sturdier than a metal guardrail, alongside the highway.
Once a vehicle comes in contact with the Jersey barrier, its special design ensures minimal damage to the vehicle and helps the vehicle avert probable head-on collisions by preventing it from crossing over onto the other side of the road, they also said.