Delhi urged to act over ‘massacre’ on railways

About 15,000 people die every year trying to cross the tracks of India’s rail network, a “massacre” which a government committee yesterday said was being ignored by rail authorities.

The High Level Safety Panel, set up last September after a spate of accidents, said new bridges and over-passes were urgently needed, but it noted previous recommendations to make the world’s fourth largest rail system safer had been ignored.

Most of the deaths occur at unmanned rail crossings, the report said. About 6,000 people die on Mumbai’s crowded suburban rail network alone. Another 1,000 die when they fall from crowded coaches, when trains collide or coaches derail, it said.

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India’s 40,000 miles of railway track cut through some of its most densely populated cities, flanked by shanty towns, in the nation of 1.2 billion people, around 20 million of whom travel by train each day.

The report called on the government to replace all railroad crossings with bridges or over-passes at an estimated cost of 500 billion rupees (£6bn) over the next five years.

“No civilised society can accept such a massacre on their railway system,” the report said. “Reluctance of the Indian railways to own up to the casualties can by no means be ignored.”

The panel was scathing about the large number of deaths in Mumbai and recommended that the “grim situation on its suburban system has to be tackled on a war-footing”.

“Trespassing occurs because of lack of barricading, fencing, lack of pedestrian bridges and facilities such as platforms, escalators, elevators for the disabled apart from insufficient train services. These are the main reasons for the heavy death toll,” the report said.

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