Despite awareness programmes, people put their lives at risk and cross the lines
Despite the elimination of unmanned level crossings and warnings from the railway police, trespassing on railway track continues in various parts of the city.
This practice is punishable under Section 147 of the Railways Act, an official from the Railway Protection Force (RPF) said. “Nobody should cross the track at any given instance,” the official said, adding that the public must use rail overbridges, underground subways and foot-over bridges to cross railway track.
According to an official from the Government Railway Police (GRP), cases of people crossing the track in an inebriated or intoxicated state due to liquor and drugs are particularly prevalent. Apart from this, the practice of wearing headphones while crossing the tracks also continues.
All these practices are potentially fatal, the official noted. Police personnel from GRP are involved in patrolling across the city to ensure that the public refrain from crossing railway track at unauthorised places. “We are also attempting to reopen subways that were closed earlier,” he said.
RPF personnel are also involved in creating awareness among passengers, an RPF official said. “No insurance claim could be made for deaths resulting from illegally crossing on track,” the official said.
At an event organised by the Pollachi Train Passengers’ Welfare Association recently at the Pollachi junction, police personnel warned public to not use mobile phones while crossing railway tracks and senior citizens to use rail overbridges.
B. Mohanraj, secretary of the Association, said that such initiatives, both on-ground and on social media, have generated awareness among the public. “Coimbatore generally witnesses a few such accidents,” he said, adding that such dangerous practices are, however, continuing in the city.
Trespassing was especially fatal during the presence of unmanned level crossings. One of the worst accidents occurred on June 4, 2010 when a Coimbatore – Mettupalayam special train collided with a bus at an unmanned level crossing at Idigarai, claiming five lives. On October 2018, Southern Railway declared that all 1,054 unmanned level crossings were eliminated in accordance with the policy formulated by the Railway Board in 2010.
A senior railway official said that all the unmanned crossings in Coimbatore city have been manned for the past three years. “Around five such level crossings were present [in the city] and five more in Mettupalayam,” the railway official said, adding that these level crossings were found at Peelamedu and Singanallur railway stations.
In a bid to make crossing the rail tracks safer, the Ministry of Railways is also planning to construct more rail overbridges and limited use subways to shut down such level crossings in the future, according to the official. “The preference is given for the Golden Quadrilateral cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai) for this project),” the official said, noting that the project will be initiated in Coimbatore soon.
Last year, two limited use subways were constructed near Singanallur Junction, the railway official said. The construction of limited use subway or rail overbridge would depend on the amount of traffic present at the level crossing. “Areas with more traffic requires a rail overbridge,” the official said.
However, the official said that the process of construction of overbridges has many constraints depending on land availability, State government’s approval and coordination between the railway officials and State government.