In an unfortunate incident, a passenger train laded with devotees on way to the holy city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, India rammed into a truck carrying sand killing atleast 14 people and leaving scores injured. Amidst contradicting news coming from different sources, the number of injured is being put between 20-35 as of now. The incident happened at around 1:30 PM local time an unmanned level crossing at Kalyanpur, near Chak Rasoolpur village, between Mankapur and Nawabganj railway stations, 125 kms from Gonda district headquarters.
The Gorakhpur-Ayodhya passenger train was over crowded with devotees on way to Ayodhya to take part in the Kartik Purnima fair when it rammed into the truck at the Kalyanpur railway crossing.
Several passengers, who were standing on the foot board, fell off owing to the impact of the collision, Gonda district police chief A Padmaja said. Many passengers with broken arms and legs have been admitted to hospital.
According to the eye witness accounts, the truck was thrown several metres away after the collision and hit two coaches of the train.
Senior railway perssonel and medical teams have been rushed to the site and are helping clear the site. The District Magistrate also informed that apart from the 11 killed on the spot, three more succumbed to injuries on way to the hospital.
Meanwhile, railway has announced an ex-gratia of INR 500,000 each to kins of the 11 deceased in the accident, which occurred today, chief PRO of NER told PTI at Gorakhpur.
Eight of the dead had been identified, police said adding majority of the victims hailed from Gonda district.
The dead identfied were Nanke (26), Chighroo (50), Shiv Murat (50), Manoj Kumar Singh (24), Cheddan (25), Indra Dev Tewari (40), Ram Lagan (50) and Krishna Dev Mishra (40).
The current mishap comes days within an earlier accident where two trains collided against each other killing atleast 21 passengers on board in the same state.
India has one of the most intricate and busiest rail networks in the world, transporting over 18 million passengers and more than 2 million tonnes of freight daily. The railways traverse the length and breadth of the country, covering more than 6,900 stations over a total route length of more than 63,327 kilometres (39,350 miles).
As the infrastructure in the country is still trying to keep up with the challenges of growing economy, railways have slowly tries to build flyover bridges over such railway crossing but in a highly populated nation where rail and road transport are the major traffic carriers; the sheer number of crossing is overwhelming. With more than 38, 000 level crossings (2004 figures) it is a huge task to man all the crossing let alone constructing over bridges across all.
Though the government has taken up the task as a priority over the years as it helps peed up the traffic and cuts down the economic cost of traffic slowdown and accidents in short run the cost of creating the infrastructure is very high.
A Whitepaper titled: “Safety as Key Business Theme! – Indian Railways Perspective” (Page 12-13) presented by the Railways in 2004 revealed the challenges:
There are about 38000 level crossings on Indian Railways, of which 16,750 are manned. All the accidents at un-manned level crossings take place on account offailure on the part of the road users as evidenced the world over. While manning does bring down the accidents, it has other limitations of causing unduly long detentions to road users apart from problems of finding resources for the purpose particularly when most of these level crossings exist in sparsely inhabited remote locations. Although massive inputs in providing grade separators (road-over-bridges/under passes), manning and interlocking with signals and telephones have been provided, the problem of negligence on the part of the road users is virtually beyond reasonable control. Since 1990-91, 203 grade separators have been provided, 1435 level crossing gates have been manned and 1747 level crossing gates have been interlocked. As most of these accidents lead to heavy casualties, involvement of Government agencies and NGOs is being resorted to educate and counsel road users.
Though the responsibility of Railway authorities in ensuring a safe journey can’t be denied, it’s equally important for the roadways users to be prudent enough to be cautious at unmanned crossing.