Twelve members of a family including four children, were killed and three others injured when the vehicle they were travelling in was hit by a train at an unmanned level crossing in Sarsod village of Hisar in Haryana yesterday.
At present, there are 30,348 railway level crossings in the country of which 11,563 are unmanned. According to Railway Ministry data, unmanned crossings are responsible for the maximum number of train accidents, around 40 per cent.
Despite its stated policy of eliminating all unmanned level crossings progressively, cash-strapped Railways is not been able to put its act together to do away with these accident-prone spots resulting in frequent loss of lives on rail tracks.
However, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has seriously taken up the issue and has sought an action plan to deal with it, said a senior Railway Ministry official involved with the plan.
The official said it has been decided to seek Rs 20,000 crore from the Finance Ministry exclusively for eliminating all unmanned level crossings in five years.
The route of premier trains like Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto will be given priority for eliminating such crossings.
It costs about Rs 1 crore annually to convert an unmanned crossing to a manned one. While Rs 60 lakh is required to set up the infrastructure and employing three gatemen at a gate, it costs about Rs 40 lakh a year for the maintenance and other expenditure for the job.
The official said accidents at level crossings happen primarily because the road users do not respect the right of way of Railways.
Railways has deployed "gate mitras" at certain unmanned crossings which have considerable volume of traffic.
There are about 2500 "gate mitras" deployed at vulnerable rail crossings to educate road users to use the crossings safely.
Ministry has already approached the ISRO to develop a system within the one km radius of an unmanned crossing at the time of approaching train as a short term measure.

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