Railways “Mission Zero Accident”
Ministry of Railways concerned over loss of innocent lives in incidents taking place at railway level crossings is working on a comprehensive scheme to eliminate all level crossings in the Indian Railways system expeditiously in a phased manner. Minister of Railways Shri Suresh Prabhu in his Railway Budget 2016-17 had announced “Mission Zero Accident” and “elimination of unmanned level crossings” formed a ‘sub-mission’ of this. It was announced that Indian Railways intends to eliminate all unmanned level crossings on Broad Gauge in the next 3-4 years for which innovative financing mechanisms are being developed.
There are total 28607 level crossings in all in Indian Railways. Out of which 19267 level crossings are manned and 9340 level crossing are unmanned. Out of the total unmanned level crossings, around 6388 level crossing or on broad gauge network and need priority attention for elimination. Remaining 2952 unmanned level crossings exist on Meter-Gauge/Narrow Gauge network. The traffic density movement on a particular level crossing is defined by the concept called Train Vehicle Unit (TVU) which is multiplication of ‘number of train units’ by the ‘number of road vehicle units’ passing through that level crossing in 24 hours period.
Indian Railways is endeavouring to eliminate all level crossings on Broad Gauge in a phased manner by either of the following methods.
- Closure -Closing unmanned level crossings having NIL/negligible Train Vehicle Unit (TVU)
- Merger – Merger of unmanned level crossing to nearby manned/unmanned level crossing or subway/Road Under Bridge (RUB)/ Road Over Bridge (ROB) by construction of diversion road.
iii. Provision of Subways/RUBs
- Manning – Phased manning of unmanned level crossings, which cannot be eliminated by above means.
- Unmanned level crossings on Meter Gauge/Narrow Gauge will preferably be eliminated during gauge conversion.
The current action plan is focusing no eliminating almost all the Broad Gauge unmanned level crossing numbering 6352 in the next 3-4 years. While Indian Railways has eliminated 1148 level crossings and 1253 level crossing in 2015-16, it has scaled up its target and now plans to eliminate 1440 level crossings.
It may be mentioned that substantial funds are required in the task of eliminating unmanned level crossing. Till such time when all the unmanned level crossings are eliminated from the railway network, Indian Railways have been taking measures to prevent accidents at such level crossings. The data indicates that most of the accidents at unmanned level crossing have taken place because of the negligence and carelessness on the part of the road user. As a temporary measure Ministry of Railways has deployed Gate Mitras (Gate Counselors) on outsourcing on contractual basis at identified vulnerable unmanned level crossings. The Gate Mitras have been sourced from Home Guard, Ex-Servicemen etc. also at various places and are provided suitable training for carrying out their duties by the Zonal Railways. They counsel and guide road users to take appropriate precautions while passing through level crossings. The deployment of Gate Mitras has led to reduction in a number of incidents at unmanned level crossings. In 2014-15, 50 accidents took place at unmanned level crossings while in 2015-16 it came down to 29. Till 1st April, 2016 a total 4326 Gate Mitras were deployed at vulnerable level crossings.
Simultaneously, Indian Railways has been conducting awareness campaigns to prevent occurrence of such unfortunate incidents. The campaigns include organizing Nukkad Nataks (street plays), distribution of leaflets in and around unmanned level crossings, sending of mass SMS alerts to road users at around level crossings, advertisements and posters, special lectures in the educational institutions etc. Periodic special awareness drive to sensitize the public regarding usage of unmanned level crossings are also organized at regular intervals. Various steps like provision of road signages, repairing of approach roads, availability of height gauges, availability of danger mark over the height gauges, etc are being checked and ensured.
Under the existing Motor Vehicles Act (Section131), the road user is supposed to take appropriate precautions while passing through the unmanned level crossing. Clause 131 prescribes certain duties for a driver approaching an unmanned level crossing to ensure safe crossing of the vehicle in the interest of public safety. The text of the Section 131 is reproduced below : –
“131. Duty of the driver to take certain precautions at unguarded railway level crossings. – Every driver of a motor vehicle at the approach of any unguarded railway level crossing shall cause the vehicle to stop and the driver of the vehicle shall cause the conductor or cleaner or attendant or any other person in the vehicle to walk up to the level crossing and ensure that no train or trolley is approaching from either side and then pilot the motor vehicle across such level crossing, and where no conductor or cleaner or attendant or any other person is available in the vehicle, the driver of the vehicle shall get down from the vehicle himself to ensure that no train or trolley is approaching from either side before the railway track is crossed”