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Zonal railway sat on file to secure unmanned crossings

On October 29, the ministry even reminded all zones that non-implementation of the instructions were causing such accidents.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi |
December 5, 2014 2:17:57 am

THE zonal railway appeared to have been sitting on a file that would have approved the appointment of around 50 “Gate Counsellors” at unmanned level-crossings in and around the Varanasi Division — including the one where five children lost their lives Thursday — and could have prevented the accident, according to facts gathered by the Railway Ministry.

Following a similar accident near Hyderabad in July, when 25 children were killed after their school bus rammed a train, the Railway Board had on August 11 issued “urgent instructions” that such vulnerable crossings near schools be identified across India and manned through Gate Counsellors on priority. On October 29, the ministry even reminded all zones that non-implementation of the instructions were causing such accidents.

The “Gate Counsellor” scheme engages three casual labourers on eight-hour shifts each to prevent vehicles from entering a train’s path.

Four months on, the zonal railway was still “evaluating the tender” to appoint the Gate Counsellors as per laid down criteria, according to a Railway Board official. “We had all the available technologies in place to caution road users. The proposal to appoint Gate Counsellors is in the pipeline,” said a North Eastern Railway spokesman. Local reports, though, said the train driver had whistled repeatedly in poor visibility condition to avoid such a mishap.

In October, the Railway Board once again issued instructions to all zonal railways saying “repeater whistle boards” be installed at level crossings and Gate Counsellors be deployed. But as it turned out on Thursday, nothing moved things in the Varanasi Division.

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