The chief minister Naveen Patnaik asked Union railway minister Mukul Roy to man all level crossings in the state. There are more than 600 unmanned railway level crossing gates in the East Coast Railway’s jurisdiction. “As these gates have become potential death-traps, immediate steps should be taken by the Railways to either convert them into manned level crossings or construct road over-bridges or under-bridges at these spots to avoid reoccurrence of such unfortunate incidents,” the CM wrote in a letter to Roy.
The CM said 20 persons died due to accidents at unmanned level crossing gates in EcoR in the past one year. Meanwhile, the divisional railway office of the East Coast Railways said a proposal to build a sub-way at the crossing was awaiting the district collector’s nod since May.
Divisional safety officer Pitabas Panda said, “Keeping in view the recurrence of accidents at level crossings, the Railways has planned to build sub-ways at 169 places. Since it involves acquisition of lands, the Railways has take the collectors’ approval. Of these 169 proposals, only 36 have got the collector’s approval so far. The Khairpali underpass plan is yet to be cleared by the Sambalpur collector.”
When contacted, Sambalpur collector Mrinalini Darswal denied delaying the project. “The underpass plan is not pending with me. I have approved it and sent it to the DRM.”
Panda informed that of the level crossings in Sambalpur railway division, 60 crossings between Sambalpur and Angul are accident-prone. The railways has abolished 169 unmanned crossings and diverted road routes at 80 such points. Plans are afoot to build over-bridges at 20 crossings.
The divisional safety officer said the divisional railway office had been spreading awareness campaigns in villages about passing through level crossings. But, these have not yielded result.
“Despite our best efforts to aware people, bikers, passers by and small lorries and jeeps pass through the crossing even when the train is barely hundred metre away. A speeding train comes to halt 600 metre away from where the emergency brake is applied. Khairpali crossing was of low traffic value unit (TVU). Unless the TVU goes beyond 3,000 units, we don’t recommend manned crossings,” he added.