Indian Railways has announced plans to eliminate all unmanned railway level crossings (UMLCs) in the country by March 2020.
The deadline was advanced after 13 children were killed when a school van collided with a train at a UMLC near Kushinagar in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, The Times of India reported.
There are currently 5,792 unmanned crossings in the country, with 3,479 on broad gauge, causing major security concerns for local traffic.
The government has planned a varied strategy to eliminate the remaining UMLCs through the construction of Railway Under Bridges (RUBs), Railway OverBridges, and by manning or creating diversions.
The ministry has also carried out a detailed review with the general managers of five critical railway zones, which have the maximum number of UMLCs.
Around 1,000 of the unmanned crossings across 11 broad gauge zones are expected to be eliminated by September this year.
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Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani was quoted by PTI as saying: “We will eliminate all unmanned level crossings by 31 March 2020.”
However, he also added that people need to be careful while crossing the UMLCs and ensure that no train is approaching from either direction.
In addition to pursuing an aggressive strategy to eliminate UMLCs, Indian Railways has taken multiple other initiatives to reduce accidents at UMLCs such as issuing print and television advertisements to create awareness among people.
The number of accidents at UMLCs was reported to have reduced by 79% from 47 accidents in 2013-14 to ten in 2017-18.