Railway crossing is but a death-trap | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 02, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, October 02, 2010


Railway crossing is but a death-trap

How many accidents do we need to act on the lethal hazard?

Once again it has happened, sending shudders through the spine of teeming onlookers and numerous others who saw its photograph the following day splashed across the front pages of newspapers. This time, it is more frightening than before; for, just not one, but two buses got ensnared in an accident on a rail-crossing near Syedabad Bus Terminal. While passengers of the ill-fated vehicles got off to safety at the nick of time, one of the buses having been tossed away by the impact of the incoming train fell pell-mell on a rickshaw and some makeshift shops killing seven persons and injuring 25.
As usual, the tragedy is put down to human failure; as the train trundled on, one of the four cross-bars was not lowered timely to prevent entry of any vehicle from either side. Result: two buses coming in on the vulnerable side were trapped between the lowered cross-bar and a long traffic tailback.
The accident was thus waiting to happen as had been the case with previous such rail-crossing disasters. But all these are avoidable provided we put the right precautions in place taking into account the reality of vehicular spillage edging on to a forbidden zone given the stupendous uncontrolled increase in the number of vehicles vis-à-vis the extremely constricted road spaces. Poor signaling, callous guarding at crossing points and train driver's carelessness as he approaches a crossing point contribute to tragic accidents. When the train driver is supposed to have slowed down to a point where he could apply the brake in a reflex on sensing any danger ahead and thus avert an accident, he is hardly trained to cope with such an emergency. When the transports roll on to the danger zone some effective traffic police presence could be helpful.
That we are having to live with so many railway crossings all over the city into the 21st century is the bigger tragedy because all the modern metropolises have dispensed with them taking the railway tracks outside the city.
We recall that such a plan for relocating crossing points away from the city through a circular railway system touching at the outer edges of the metropolis was talked about at length some time back. But as it happens, with the pall of anxiety dying down, we quickly revert to business as usual. So, let's then pursue it vigorously before more accidents take place, more mother's laps are emptied and families lose their only earning members. In the meantime, the railway authorities and the traffic bosses sit down in earnest to map out a safety strategy amidst all the existing constraints and go on to implement it.

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