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POST TIME: 13 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 13 November, 2019 12:41:28 AM
No respite from increasing rail accident deaths
RAFIQUL ISLAM AZAD, Dhaka

No respite from increasing rail accident deaths

Train accidents have alarmingly increased in the country in the recent years causing huge loss of lives and properties while leaving the remedies apparently unheeded. Railway officials identified problems in railway tracks, mechanical problems, human errors, error in point setting and signal setting, unauthorized level crossings, vulnerable railway bridges, poor maintenance and manpower crunch as the main reasons behind such incidents. While major fatal incidents take place due to collision and unauthorised level crossings, record shows that the highest number of train accidents occurs due to derailment. While the major incidents draw media attention, a large number of minor accidents throughout the year go unnoticed.

According to Accident Research Institute (ARI) at BUET, a total of 122 people were killed and 296 others wounded in 103 rail-related incidents this year till July 15, including an accident in Moulavibazar on June 23 that killed 5. With yesterday’s fatal accident at Kasba in Brahmanbaria that killed 16 people, the death toll now stands at 138 this year.

Earlier, in 2018, some 244 people lost their lives and 228 others were injured in 235 rail-related fatalities, while 229 died and 156 were hurt in 211 such incidents the previous year, says ARI.

Record shows that a total of 868 train accidents have occurred in the last five and half a years, and 639 of them due to derailment, which is 73.62 per cent of the total number of accidents.

Altogether 2,988 train accidents took place in the last 12 years until June 30 this year, according to data. In the 11 years till the end of FY2017–16 fiscal year, 305 such incidents involved trains ramming into obstruction while 21 were due to collisions.

Yesterday’s train accident in Kasba took place as Chattogram-bound Udayan Express from Sylhet and Dhaka-bound Turna Nishita from Chattogram collided at Mondobhag Railway Station around 3:00am yesterday leaving 16 people killed and many others injured.

Talking to media, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan held the loco master of intercity train Turna Nishita Express responsible for the accident. He also said both the loco master

of Turna Nishita Express and his assistant have been suspended.

Earlier on June 23, the fatal incident in Moulavibazar took place when six coaches of Dhaka-bound ‘Upaban Express’ from Sylhet veered off the tracks on a culvert over the Barochhara Canal, 200 yards off Baramchal Railway Station leaving least five people killed.

Data shows that at least 202 accidents took place in FY2018-19. The number of mishaps that occurred during the last fiscal year was more than that of the two previous years. A total of 89 incidents had taken place in FY2017-18 while 80 in FY2016-17.

Sources in Bangladesh Railway (BR) said most of the fatal accidents took place at about 2,000 unauthorised level crossings across the country. Such level crossings have no gatemen and vehicles as well as people cross the tracks freely, often resulting in fatal accidents. The sources say the number of deaths at unauthorised level crossings had increased alarmingly in recent years, but the authorities are yet to take any effective step.

About 89 per cent of the fatalities caused by train accidents happened at level crossings. About 2,000 out of 3,200 railway level crossings in the country were unauthorized, sources added.

Director General of Bangladesh Railway Md Shamsuzzaman is, however, not ready to accept the claims of increasing number of train accidents. “The number of train accidents has not increased in the recent years,” he asserted.

The railway chief however said that the authorities are in the process of carrying out development in the railway sector. “Most of the tracks are old one, we have taken steps to carry out proper maintenance,” he said.

Asked about the reason behind yesterday’s fatal crash, he declined to make any comment, saying that an enquiry committee has been formed and they would identify the reasons behind the accident.

Talking to the Independent, Railway Ministry Secretary Md Mofazzel Hossain admitted that poor maintenance of tracks, signalling errors and manpower crunch were the main reasons behind train accidents.

“We are trying our level best to improve the maintenance quality, taking our existing manpower to reduce the rate of train accidents,” he said adding that steps will be taken to restore good track condition and intensify monitoring system.

He said the ministry has taken measures to modernize the signaling system with computer based system in phases with priority to newly expanded rail lines. The secretary further said they would take measures to remove unauthorized level crossings to avoid rail accidents.

Replying to a question, he said his ministry has identified vulnerable railway bridges and now is preparing project profile (PP) for renovation of those structures.