As per the data submitted by the government to a parliamentary standing committee, more than 7000 level crossings are unmanned across the country and the government hopes to eliminate them by 2020. Gujarat has the most number of such unmanned level crossings.
After a deadly accident killed 26 school children at an unmanned level crossing (UMLC) in Telangana in 2014, a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court (SC). The case went on for about one and a half years and the SC disposed it in 2016 after having convinced itself with the action plan submitted by the government. The government had submitted an affidavit to the SC in September 2015 with an action plan to eliminate UMLCs by 2020. As it stands, more than 7000 UMLCs are still waiting to be eliminated as of 1st April 2017.
Close to half the level crossings are unmanned in Western Railways
Out of the 29487 level crossings across India, 7701 or 26% are still unmanned as of 1st April 2017. Out of the 7701, 4943 are on Broad Gauge, 1524 on Meter Gauge and 1234 on Narrow Gauge. Amongst the zones, 48% of the level crossings are still unmanned in Western Railways. Western Railways with 1907 also has the highest number of UMLCs. More than 30% of the level crossings are unmanned in four different zones and more than 20% in 10 zones. Only the West Central Railway & Eastern Railway zones have eliminated virtually every UMLC. Central Railway zone also eliminated all UMLCs on the broad gauge. The UMLCs in Central Railway zone are all on the narrow gauge.
Gujarat has the most number of UMLCs
Among the states, Gujarat has the highest number of UMLCs. Gujarat has 791 UMLCs on broad gauge and 1104 on meter/narrow gauge making a total of 1895 UMLCs. Uttar Pradesh has the 2nd highest number of UMLCs with 1112. Only two other states of Bihar & Rajasthan have more than 800 UMLCs each. In fact, the four states of Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar & Rajasthan make up for 60% of all the UMLCs in the country. Kerala on the other hand has only 7 UMLCs. Fourteen (14) States/UTs have less than 50 UMLCs each.
Considerable Progress made in the last 5 years
In the last 5 years, a total of 6169 UMLCs have been eliminated. Of these five years, the highest number of UMLCs i.e., 1503 have been eliminated in 2016-17. On average, about 1250 UMLCs have been eliminated each year starting 2012-13. More than 500 UMLCs each have been eliminated in these 5 years in six zones. Less than 300 UMLCs each have been eliminated in five zones. In the east central railway zone, only 132 UMLCs have been eliminated in these 5 years, the lowest for any zone.
199 accidents at UMLCs in 5 years
A total of 199 accidents took place at UMLCs between 2012-13 and 2016-17. The number of such accidents has come down to 20 in 2016-17 from 53 in 2012-13. Four (4) zones that have the greater percentage of UMLCs are also in the top five zones with most accidents at UMLCs. During the same period, 21 accidents took place at manned level crossings.
Target to eliminate UMLCs on Broad Gauge by 2020
The Ministry of Railways told a parliamentary standing committee that the following methods will be used to eliminate the UMLCs
- Closure – Closing UMLCs having NIL/negligible traffic volume
- Merger – Merger of UMLCs to nearby LCs/grade-separators by Construction of diversion road.
- Provision of Subways/RUBs
- Manning – UMLCs which cannot be eliminated by above methods will be progressively manned
The government also told the parliamentary standing committee that all 4943 UMLCs on broad gauge will be eliminated by 2020. As per the plan submitted by the government, 1500 UMLCs each will be eliminated in 2017-18 and 2018-19 while the remaining 1943 will be eliminated in 2019-20.The government also told the standing committee that UMLCs on meter gauge network will be gradually removed along with gauge conversion work. In narrow gauge, the government plans to remove some UMLCs while the others will be manned. It is also heartening to note that there has been a near 100% utilization of the allocated funds for road safety works in the last few years.
Featured Image: Unmanned Level Crossing