Bangladesh Railway (BR) is known for its gross inefficiency and endemic corruption. Negligence in its safety measures has turned many level crossings into virtual death traps where accidents occur almost regularly. Generally, level crossings - both approved and unauthorised - are not properly managed. A section of pedestrians and commuters also do not care about precautions to pass the level crossings safely.
There are many level crossings created in new residential areas without any approval from the BR though written permission is obligatory for setting up a level crossing. The provision is being flouted indiscriminately. The BR, designated to look after the safety issues, is conspicuous by its silence; as a result, more than 1,761 unapproved level crossings have been built at various points across the country.Data shows almost 80 per cent of the level crossings are unauthorised. A significant number of them are set up by different union parishads, pourashavas and city corporations. Though they are supposed to bear the costs of operation of these level crossings, most are not properly managed.
Few of the security guards at level crossings are permanent employees but a vast majority are a daily basis temporary staffs; naturally they take the job casually. The half-hearted performance of the guards contributes to accidents.
The level crossings are expected to be managed under proper security systems to avert accidents. The railway law allows judging deaths caused by accidents at unapproved railway crossings as murders. So, they cannot escape the responsibilities for the loss of lives and properties. But, hardly any was brought to justice for deaths at unguarded and poorly managed level crossings.
The legal provisions to punish the violators of the law have become useless because of non-application. Bangladesh Railway should make a list of illegal level crossings and shut those except the ones that are most needed and take responsibility for their proper maintenance and safety.
The death and maiming in rail accidents continue to remain alarmingly high. It is not acceptable that a significant percentage of deaths by railway accidents take place due to poor maintenance of the railway crossings. The railway in cooperation with the authorities must ensure that they are properly guarded and maintained.