After the incident in Amritsar last month, when a train mowed down 60 people who had gathered on the tracks to watch a Ravan effigy being burnt at a Dussehra celebration, the Indian Railways has decided to build 3,000 km of walls to fence its tracks and ward off trespassers in residential areas. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal is learnt to have taken the decision days after the Amritsar mishap. The Railways has estimated that the project will cost about Rs 2,500 crore.
At a height of 2.7 metres, the RCC (reinforced cement concrete) walls will come up along railway tracks which are flanked by residential areas, in suburban as well as non-suburban areas.
“This will prevent trespassing as well as cattle straying into the tracks in areas which are vulnerable. The height is such that dumping waste on the track will also not be easy,” said Vishwesh Chaube, Railway Board Member (Engineering), who is finalising the project.
The Commission of Railway Safety stipulates that in order to obtain safety clearance for train speeds of 160 kmph, the railway tracks need to be fenced or walled. With more stretches set to get a speed upgrade, walls along tracks have become necessary and the decision is linked to that as well, said sources.
The boundary walls are also being planned at vulnerable areas along the Golden Quadrilateral and its diagonals.
Before the Amritsar incident, the zonal railways had chalked out plans to build 2,000 km of walls in some areas identified as problematic. A part of Budget 2018-19, these works, estimated to cost about Rs 650 crore, were being funded by the Rashtriya Rail Sanrakshana Kosh — the Rs 1 lakh crore special safety fund to be utilised in five years. Officials said tenders have already been floated, and are likely to be finalised by next month.
The fresh thrust after the Amritsar mishap is estimated to cover all vulnerable stretches in populated areas. “The new project is over and above what we have been working on this year,” said Chaube.
In the last three years, at least 49,790 people have been mowed down by trains — a large number of the accidents occurred in densely populated suburban areas. As per law, Railways treats these deaths as acts of trespassing and negligence on the part of road users.
The report of the high level safety review committee, headed by scientist Anil Kakodkar, had said that in the Mumbai suburban railway area, trespassing takes place mainly due to lack of barricading, fencing, absence of adequate number of pedestrian overbridges, reluctance to replace pedestrian level crossings with foot overbridges etc.
Following this, the Railways has been erecting walls and fences in short stretches, wherever necessary, but the exercise was largely a local-level endeavour. Adding to the transporter’s problem, residents have often objected to walls being constructed. In the past, when walls were constructed, bricks were pilfered and iron fences stolen.
In Amritsar, however, the boundary walls were not enough to keep away the people, who are reported to have scaled the walls for a better view. According to officials, many people entered the tracks from nearby level crossing as well.