150 out of 242 West Zone level crossings unmanned
A staggering 150 out of 242 level crossings under the West Zone of Bangladesh Railway are running without gatemen.
Besides, only 36 of the working gatemen are permanent staff of Bangladesh Railway while the rest 56 are temporarily employees working for a daily wage of Tk 80.
The poorly paid people, hardly getting any motivation for their work, do not regularly attend their duty at respective rail crossings to control traffic movement, said passengers and locals.
Collision between moving trains and road transports often leads to casualties and damage of vehicles as in absence of gatemen, drivers of buses and other vehicles tend to hastily pass level crossings even when they see a fast approaching train at a near distance.
Two people were killed and 40 others injured when a running passenger bus collided with the engine of a Dhaka to Kolkata train at Uthli in Damurhuda upazila of Chuadanga district on Tuesday.
There was no gateman at the crossing to signal arrival of the moving train, passengers said, adding that ignoring their repeated request, the bus driver ran the vehicle on the level crossing.
The level crossing is not an authorised one, said Divisional Engineer of Bangladesh Railway (West Zone) Masudur Rahman.
Railway sources said 29 level crossings from Khulna rail station to Darshana in Chuadanga district are under direct control of the Traffic Division of Bangladesh Railway but there are no gatemen in 14 of these crossings.
Besides, of the 108 level crossings under direct supervision of the Engineering Division of Bangladesh Railway, 68 crossings do not have any gateman, they said.
"There are 179 authorised level crossings under my jurisdiction from Khulna to Bheramara and Poradaha to Goalando. Besides, there are 63 unauthorised level crossings, raising the total number of level crossings to 242,” said Divisional Engineer Masudur Rahman.
"When a road is linked across the railway track, it is mandatory that the departments concerned arrange a meeting with the railway department about coordination of the matter. But the provision is hardly followed,” he said. The higher authorities of Bangladesh Railway have been informed of the acute shortage of gatemen, but to no effect.
Expressing resentment over the low pay for their risky job, several temporary gatemen said they get punishment for any accident while drivers of passenger and goods carrying vehicles who pass level crossings in defiance of rules always go unpunished.
Sometimes unruly drivers, eager to pass level crossings in haste, even attack gatemen when they put barriers at level crossings, they said.