POST TIME: 14 November, 2019 11:12:03 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 15 November, 2019 01:24:33 AM
‘Human errors’ mostly blamed for train crashes

‘Human errors’ mostly 
blamed for train crashes

Bystanders look at firefighters dousing the fire which engulfed Rangpur Express upon its derailment off Ullahpara Railway Station in Sirajganj district yesterday. Star Mail Photo

About 70 per cent rail related accidents in the country take place due to error in railway’s signaling and pointing systems. Experts came up with the observation putting emphasis on the need to address the errors by adopting modern technologies in a bid to avoid rampant rail-related accidents causing huge losses to lives and properties. The findings came following yet another train accident at Ullapara in Sirajganj yesterday as three compartments of Rangpur Express caught fire after derailment.

The incident took place snapping rail links between Dhaka and northern districts while Tuesday’s train accident at Mandbagh in Brahmanbaria took place as a locomaster allegedly violated the signal and collided with another train that was coming from the opposite direction. At least 16 passengers were killed and over 100 others injured in the terrific accident.

Senior railway officials admitted that most of the rail-related accidents took place due to error in point setting and signal setting, human errors etc. They also identified problems on railway tracks, mechanical problems, unauthorised level crossings, vulnerable railway bridges, poor maintenance and manpower crunch as reasons behind the incidents.

A top Railway Ministry official said the government has taken initiatives to introduce computer-based signaling system giving priority to the newly-expanded rail lines and modernise the signaling system elsewhere to check the accidents.

While talking to The Independent, Director of Accident Research Institute (ARI) at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) Prof Dr Md Mizanur Rahman said about 70 per cent rail related accidents take place due to human errors as locomaster or signal men are mostly responsible for most of the accidents.

He also identified lack of monitoring and replacing the old railway tracks for the frequent train accidents. The ARI chief suggested the government to immediately address the problems and take effective measures to modernise the signaling system for removal of human errors, which is mostly responsible for the rail related accidents.

Railway Secretary Md Mofazzel Hossain also admitted that errors in signaling and pointing system of the railway were the main reasons behind major train accidents.

He, however, said that his ministry was working on introducing computer-based modern signaling and pointing system in case of new railway lines with priority to reduce the rate of train accidents.

The ministry will also bring the old rail lines under digital system and renovate the old railway tracks in phases near future, he added.

Record shows that most of the train accidents take place due to derailment, but the fatal incidents take place due to collision and unauthorised level crossings. Of those, the major incidents draw media attention, but a large number of minor accidents taking place throughout the year go unnoticed.

According to the ARI at BUET, a total of 122 people were killed and 296 others wounded in 103 rail-related incidents as of July 15 this year.

Meanwhile, UNB adds more than 700 level crossings in the western region of Bangladesh Railway— Khulna, Rajshahi and Rangpur divisions— are operating without gatemen, increasing the risks of deadly accidents.

Sources said 715 level-crossings do not have gatemen while the authorities concerned have hung warning signs in designated areas.

Another 339 unauthorised level-crossings lack warning signs, making the movement of vehicles and passersby risky.

The railway took a five-year project in July 2015 to improve the level-crossings in the western region. Many accidents take place in the rail crossings for lack of gatemen.

Chief Engineer of Railway West zone Al Fattah Mohammad Masudur Rahman said there are 1,034 authorised level-crossings but only 319 of them had gatemen.

Railway officials said the number of unauthorised level-crossings increased because of the construction of new roads beside rail tracks. Executive Engineer Mostafizur Rahman, director of a project to improve level-crossings in the west zone, said unauthorised and unsafe level-crossings will be made safer.

General Manager of Railway West zone Abdul Awal Bhuiya said some level-crossings do not have gatemen and the authorities concerned have kept them operational by recruiting people on temporary basis.