The railways minister has stated that there were 129 railway-related accidents last year, in which 39 people were killed and 155 injured, and that most of the accidents were caused by signal violations and derailments. According to Nirapad Sarak Chai, however, at least 198 people were killed and 347 injured in 162 railway-related accidents, while Shipping and Communication Reporters Forum (SCRF) stated that at least 421 people were killed and 366 injured in 393 railway-related accidents in 2019. We are baffled at the discrepancy between the minister’s estimate and the figures suggested by non-governmental organisations, and we urge the ministry to keep reliable and detailed records of the accidents and the gratuitous loss of human lives so that adequate steps can be taken to address the reasons behind these accidents, and to prevent such untoward incidents from happening in the future.
The horrendous train accident in Brahmanbaria last November was a tragic reminder of the neglect with which our railway has been treated over the years. Seventeen people died and at least 54 were injured when two trains collided because of the negligence of one of the drivers and his assistants. A report in this daily at that time had stated that Bangladesh Railway has been experiencing severe manpower crisis, which is one of the reasons why we have seen a spike in railway-related accidents. In fact, according to the annual report of the Bangladesh Railway, the organisation is being operated with only one-third of the required loco masters, stationmasters and guards. Many technical staff lack the necessary training to carry out their responsibilities.
The railways minister has said that major reforms are underway, including introduction of modern technology to prevent accidents, more intercity trains, construction of more rail tracks, rail bridges, level crossings, etc. Illegally occupied land belonging to the railway has also been recovered.
These are no doubt heartening news. But we would like to see immediate recruitment of more railway staff and capacity building of the workforce so that human errors do not result in loss of human lives. Additionally, we need to ensure proper maintenance of existing and future infrastructure so that the railways can become a safe and reliable mode of transport in the country.