What’s behind increasing railway accidents?

Shahed Shafiq
Published : 23:01, Nov 12, 2019 | Updated : 23:06, Nov 12, 2019

Chattogram-bound Udayan Express from Sylhet and Dhaka-bound Turna Nishita from Chattogram collided near the Mondobhag Railway Station on Tuesday (Nov 12). FOCUS BANGLABangladesh has seen one of the deadliest train wrecks when 16 people were killed and more than people 50 injured in a head-on collision between two trains in Brahmanbaria.
Despite trains being termed as “safe transports,” in the last five-and-half years, over 1,000 train accidents were reported in which around 130 people died.
Those accidents officially cost the railway sector damages worth Tk 10 billion. The unofficial number is reportedly higher.
Experts have pointed several causes behind these fatal accidents, blaming the government’s sincerity as well as lack of manpower added with faulty signals and not adhering to railway rules.
They said that although the government is prioritizing the railway sector in terms of budget allocation, it hasn’t been fruitful.
According to a research by Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB), 75 percent of the railway accidents were caused by derailments. Trains, meanwhile, often derail due to additional carriages being attached beyond the capacity of the engine.
In addition to that, faults in signalling, collision, carriages disconnecting have caused train wrecks.
WBBS research showed that that railway accidents have seen an upward curve since 2010 and took a sinister turn by the national polls of 2013.
Bangladesh currently has 2,929 kilometres of railway track amongst which only 25.23 percent is up to the standards.
Faulty signals and not abiding by them can have dire consequences as seen in the recent Brahmanbaria collision.
Moreover, accidents also occur at the railway crossings where there is a significant lack of manpower. Usually, gatekeepers are appointed at the level crossings but there are still 2,031 crossings without gatekeepers.
The crushed stones in the railway tracks are imperative to reduce chances of accidents but despite the over 555,000 cubic metres of the stones needed for the railway, only 100,000 cubic metres are available, and that too below the standard quality.
Although the tracks need to be fixed and remodelled, it’s not being done, causing fatal accidents.
Despite the projects were undertaken to develop the railway sector use of low-quality slippers, fish plates and other materials have significantly deterred smooth rail journey.
Amongst the tracks not remodelled, are the bridges that the trains go over, some which date back to the British era.
Amongst the 3,143 bridges, 402 are risky causing derailments. Incidents of bridges collapsing have also been reported.
WBB Trust project employee Md Atiqur Rahaman says that the accidents are preventable through the use of technology.
“Our railway authorities neither have the ability nor the honest wish to achieve that,” he said before adding that the authorities must now think outside use of cranes to reduce speed and recovery purposes.
Rahman said that that railway hospitals and doctors must be prepared to tackle these kinds of crises in addition to the use of modern technology.
Road Safety Foundation Executive Director Syedur Rahman said that there is a significant lack of sincerity on the government’s part in the railway sector.
Criticising the use of bamboo sticks for crossings, he said corruption in the railway sector needs to be handled strictly and the system needs to be remodelled to make it safer.
He also cited those responsible for not being punished for previous accidents behind the negligence in the sector.
Additional Director General of the railway Md Mia Jahan said that there are detailed railway rules and accidents can be avoided if they are adhered to.
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