October 27, 2020

15,000 die each year crossing rail tracks in India

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NEW DELHI (AP) — About 15,000 people die every year trying to cross the tracks of India’s mammoth rail network, a “massacre” that a government committee said was being ignored by railway authorities.

The safety panel said new bridges and overpasses were urgently needed, but it noted previous recommendations to make the world’s fourth largest railway system safer had been ignored. Its report noted that railway authorities were unwilling to view the deaths of people hit by trains while crossing the tracks as train accidents.

Most of the deaths occur at unmanned railroad crossings, said the report released over the weekend. About 6,000 people die on Mumbai’s crowded suburban rail network alone.

Another 1,000 people die when they fall from crowded coaches, when trains collide or coaches derail, it said.

India’s 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) of railway track cut through some of the most densely populated cities, flanked by shanty towns, in the nation of 1.2 billion people.

Railway experts say stopping pedestrians from crossing the tracks in congested areas would be virtually impossible.

“The situation is exceptionally dangerous in Mumbai where four or five tracks, or more, lie parallel and people living in slums on either side have no choice but to walk across the tracks,” said I.M.S. Rana, a railway expert.

The High Level Safety Review Committee was set up by the government in September after a spate of train accidents. Around 20 million people in India travel by train each day.

The report called on the government to urgently replace all railroad crossings with bridges or overpasses at an estimated cost of 500 billion rupees ($10 billion) over the next five years.

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