- Indian Railways is one of the largest Railway systems of the world which spreads across over 64,000 route kilometers and is fully owned and operated by, Government of India.There are 31846 level crossings (LC) on Indian Railways, out of which 18316 are manned and 13530 are unmanned level crossings. These level crossings are not only the bottlenecks in Train Operation but also a major contributor to the accidents and fatalities
- A web-based system for overall Safety Management of Indian Railway (SIMS) has been developed in which one of the modules is over level crossing which assigns a unique Identification Number to every level crossing and various information are tagged over it.Indian Railway has envisioned to eliminate all unmanned level crossings over a time frame which will not only bring down the number of accidents rather also improve the line capacity as trains get held up at busy LC gates. It will further save operation and maintenance costs incurred on the gates.
LEVEL CROSSINGS AND ITS VULNERABILITY:
The Road Traffic crosses the Railway Track either on “Grade Separated Crossing” (Road and rail at different Levels) or at “Level Crossing” (Road and rail at same levels). The level crossings are made to facilitate the smooth running of traffic in a regulated manner governed by specific rules and conditions.
As on 01.04.2012, there are a total of 31846 level crossings spanning over 64460 route kilometers.The average of 49 level crossings per 100 kilometers in Indian Railways. Out of which 13,530 are unmanned and 18,316 are manned. Out of 18316 manned level crossing, 9,978(54%) are interlocked. Protected by a Gate Signal as an additional Layer of Safety.
Analysis of 5-year data of consequential train accidents for the period from 2007-08 to 2011-12 reveals that a large chunk of 779 deaths (58%) and 670 injuries (27.5%) were due to unmanned level crossing accidents attributed to the negligence of road users and it constituted 36.4% of the total train accidents. Manned level crossing accidents which are 4.5% of total tally resulted in 4.8% deaths and 5.5% injuries. The Level Crossings are vulnerable to the extent that it is responsible for 41% of accidents, 63% deaths and 33% injuries over Indian Railways.
It is observed that the road vehicle drivers misjudge the speed of trains due to the fact that human reaction time is 2.5 seconds which is just enough to coordinate the reflexes against the speed of 60-70kmph. However, trains on Indian railways are plying at about 100-120 KMPH for which the reaction time is inadequate. Road users continue to cross the tracks even if the train is visible and approaching causing leading to level crossing accidents.
The problems of mobility and accident prevention at level crossings can best be addressed by joint efforts of all concerned – Central Government, State Government, Municipalities, NGOs, educational institutions and private operators etc.
CORRELATION OF TRAFFIC VEHICLE UNIT AND NUMBER OF LEVEL CROSSING:
TRAFFIC VEHICLE UNIT (TVU):
The vulnerability of a level crossing is measured in terms of TVU which is obtained by multiplying the number of trains with the number of road vehicles passing over the level crossing in 24 hours, where, train, road vehicle, bullock carts and tongas are considered one unit and cycle rickshaw / Auto rickshaw half unit. A periodical census of all level crossings is done once every three years for seven days.
UNMANNED LEVEL CROSSING:
There are total 13530 unmanned level crossings. It is evident that if we eliminate 1447 (13530-12083) unmanned level crossing, which is about 11% of total Unmanned LC then we can eliminate all Unmanned LC above 3000 TVU. This will reduce the ACCIDENT RISK by 44% of total level crossing accidents.
MANNED LEVEL CROSSING:
There is total 18416 Manned Level Crossing. From the analysis, it can be observed that if 2316 (18416-16100) manned level crossing, which is about 13% of total Manned LC, then we can eliminate all Manned LC above 0.1 Million TVU. Thus by constructing 2316 ROB (Road Over Bridges), we can get free of High TVU Manned Level Crossings.
TYPE OF BARRIERS:
- Lifting barriers are installed in lieu of leaf gates to facilitate simultaneous closure/opening of gates on both the ends.
- Sliding booms in place of chains are also being provided so that even if the primary lifting barrier is broken, the sliding boom can protect level crossing and a train can run at normal speeds.
POLICY ON LEVEL CROSSINGS:
Indian Railways have framed the multi-pronged policy to minimize the accidents and fatalities at level crossings which are summarized below.
PROLIFERATION OF NEW LEVEL CROSSINGS RESTRICTED ON INDIAN RAILWAYS:
As per statutory obligation, Railway’s liability is limited to provide RAIL-ROAD CROSSING (Grade Separated or Level Crossing) in consultation with the State Government at the time of laying new railway lines. For next ten years, no new crossing is allowed generally. After review of ten years, if the situation so warrants, a suitable crossing is provided only if State Government agrees to bear the full cost (Capital as well as recurring). Even then preferably Grade Separated crossing is insisted and if not technically feasibly than manned Level Crossing is the last resort. Introduction of any new Un-Manned Level Crossing is totally BANNED.
ELIMINATION OF THE EXISTING LEVEL CROSSINGS:
Railways have decided to progressively eliminate unmanned level crossings by various means,
ROAD OVER BRIDGES (ROB):
Construction of ROB in lieu of level crossing where the TVU (Traffic Vehicle Unit) is above 0.1 million. The cost of one ROB is around Rs 300 million INR. Over Indian Railways, it is a joint venture wherein the cost of ROB which is equally shared between the concerned STATE GOVT & CENTRAL GOVT (Ministry of Railways) Time taken is 3 to 4 years. Construction of ROB requires land acquisition, encroachment removal for its long approaches making it a tedious job. There are 1154 level crossings on Indian Railway, having a traffic density (Train Vehicle Unit) of 0.1 million or above i.e. qualifying for the replacement for Road Over/Under Bridges on the cost-sharing basis for which the work is being sanctioned.
ROAD UNDER BRIDGE (RUB):
Construction of ROB in lieu of level crossing. The cost varies from Rs 10 to 50 million INR and completion takes 1 to 2 years. This is the most cherished method of elimination where TVU is low but is technically feasible only where the Rail Track is on the high embankment and does not remain on water stagnant area. Construction of RUB/Subway in lieu of level crossings does not require any further sanction of Commissioner Of Railway Safety (CRS). if pre-cast RCC boxes are inserted through cut & cover method under complete blocks of all affected lines.
MERGER OR DIVERSION:
Railways have planned construction of Diversion Roads from Unmanned crossing to nearby Manned Xing or ROB/RUB to divert road vehicles for safe passage and have permitted up to one km long Diversion Roads through Railway land or Railway Bridges.
By closing unmanned level crossings having NIL/ negligible traffic by way of Train Vehicle Unit where roads are non-existent on either side. Closure of unmanned level crossings does not require CRS sanction.
- The unmanned level crossings which cannot be eliminated by other means (ROB/RUB, Merger/Diversion, and Closure) will be progressively manned based on rail-road traffic volume, visibility conditions. One time capital cost of about Rs 1million INR. Annual maintenance cost is around Rs 0.2 million INR. The problem faced by Indian Railways is the non-availability of Gatemen.
- For regulating the MANNING and fixing up of priority the Un-Manned Level Crossing are categorized. All Unmanned Level Crossings Gates with TVU above 3000 qualify for manning. However, if the visibility is restricted (Below to 800 meters for road users) then the criterion of 300 is related to 2500. However, any level crossing found vulnerable and technically feasible to be eliminated can be taken up for manning irrespective of the TVU. Manned level crossings having heavy traffic density are being progressively interlocked with signals on a planned basis.
Although the accidents at unmanned level crossings primarily and largely occurred due to the negligence of road vehicle users are in clear violation of Section 131 of Motor Vehicle Act, Indian Railways have been taking steps to ensure additional safety at these locations. Some of these measures targeted at safety at unmanned and manned level crossing are as under:
ANTI COLLISION DEVICE (ACD):
The Anti-Collision Device (ACD) has already been provided on 1736 Route KM at a cost of one billion INR, which also provides additional safety shield at manned and unmanned level crossings, through an audio-visual indication to road users. Moreover, in case of emergent needs, gatemen at manned level crossings will be able to reduce the speed of an approaching train to prevent an accident at the crossing.
TRAIN ACTUATED WARNING DEVICE (TAWD):
Development of a reliable Train Actuated Warning Device (TAWD) for giving audio/ visual warning to road users about an approaching train has been under process on IR to reduce accidents at unmanned level crossings. Field trials have been carried out to prove its reliability and fail-safe feature, apart from suitability and miscreant prone environment. The trials have been completed and few designs have been found suitable.
EDUCATING THE PUBLIC:
These primarily consist of educating the public en-mass so as to act as PREVENTIVE MEASURE. This is achieved by including chapters on safety at level crossings in the school syllabus of children.
- To educate road drivers about safety at unmanned level crossings, publicity campaigns are periodically launched through different media like quickies on TV, cinema slides, posters, radio, newspapers and street plays etc. Involvement of village Panchayats is also organized in railways’ public awareness program.
- Road users have still not got used to faster speeds of Mail/Express trains. A train running at 90 KMPH covers 25 meters per second. Thus, although to the road user the train appears to be 250 meters away, in terms of time, it is only 10 seconds away. This message is being conveyed to them by various public campaigns.
SAFETY DRIVES & AMBUSH CHECKS:
Joint Ambush Checks with civil authorities are conducted to nab errant road vehicle drivers under the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and the Railways Act, 1989.
Surprise checks and night inspections are regularly conducted to check the alertness of gatemen.
Proper signage along the track (Whistle Board) and road (Breaker & Stop Board) have been provided on approaches to level crossings so that road vehicle drivers become aware of the existence of a level crossing. Also, the drivers of trains get pre-warned become cautions to look out for infringement if any and to whistle intermittently so that the road users get the indication of coming trains. To improve their visibility the signboards are being made of retro-reflective sheets.
Speed breakers/rumble strips have been provided on approaches to level crossings so that road vehicle drivers are reminded to reduce their speed.
Where the visibility distance is inadequate, speed restrictions for trains are imposed to allow for the longer time interval for road traffic to pass in the face of approaching trains.
Telephones are also being provided at all manned level crossing gates.
Indian Railways is all set to appoint gate mitras (counselors) who will be present at unmanned level crossings and will prevent commuters from going through unmanned gates. They will also distribute pamphlets urging the commuters to adopt safety rules while driving and take precautions while going through railway crossings. This is being done to reduce the number of accidents at the unmanned level crossings.
Gate mitras will be appointed by the safety departments of all zonal railways and will be given training about the precautions, which needs to be followed for going through unmanned crossings. They will also apprise commuters about the Motor Vehicles Act and Railway Act 1989. According to section 131 of Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, the commuter driving the vehicle has to stop at the unmanned crossings before going through the crossings. The gate mitras appointed at the railway crossing will be provided an identity card by the division concerned and their tenure at a particular railway crossing will depend on the number of trains/number of road users going through that particular crossing. In addition to this, gate mitras will also have the power of lodging FIR against ant road user who goes through the crossing violating the provisions of Motor Vehicles Act.
This is an interim arrangement by the railways till such unmanned crossings are gradually eliminated with the constructions of ROB/RUB or the crossings will be terminated or will be converted into manned crossings.
Indian Railways have the high density of level crossing and are a major contributory factor for loss of human life on account of railway accidents. To monitor the condition of level crossing a unique ID is provided to every level crossing and being managed through a module of Level Crossing in “Safety Information Management System”. The roadmap has been made to eliminate the unmanned level crossings and same has been envisioned in “VISION-2020”. Accordingly, concrete steps are being taken for improving the safety at level crossings in Indian Railway.