The Indian Railways plans to build 3,000 km of walls to guard its tracks from trespassers after the train accident in Amritsar last month claimed 62 lives, The Indian Express reported on Monday. This follows an incident in Amritsar last month in which 62 people who had strayed on to the railway tracks were mowed down by two trains. The project is estimated to cost Rs 2,500 crore.
The reinforced cement concrete walls will be 2.7 metres high and will be built along railway tracks that are flanked by residential areas in suburban and non-suburban areas. “This will prevent trespassing as well as cattle straying into the tracks in areas which are vulnerable,” said Railway Board Member (Engineer) Vishwesh Chaube who is finalising the project. “The height is such that dumping waste on the track will also not be easy.”
The zonal railways initially planned to build 2,000 km of walls in certain areas identified as problematic. The work was estimated to cost about Rs 650 crore and was to be funded by the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh. But days after the Amritsar train accident, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal reportedly took the decision to extend the wall coverage to 3,000 km. “The new project is over and above what we have been working on this year,” said Chaube. Officials said tenders have been floated and are likely to be finalised in December.
The Commission of Railway Safety stipulates that in order to obtain safety clearance for train speeds of 160 kmph, railway tracks need to be fenced or walled. Unidentified officials said walls along tracks have become necessary as more stretches are set to get a speed upgrade.
Walls are also being planned at vulnerable areas along the Golden Quadrilateral – a national highway network connecting the four metros and major cities – and its diagonals.
A report submitted by a high level safety review committee said that in the Mumbai suburban railway area, trespassing takes place mainly due to lack of fencing and adequate pedestrian overbridges. The zonal railway has been erecting walls and fences in short stretches. Residents, however, have often objected to construction of such walls.
Amritsar train accident
On October 19, a train ploughed through a crowd standing on the railway tracks in Amritsar, Punjab, during a Dussehra event that was being held at a ground adjacent to the tracks. A second train coming from the opposite direction ran over those who had jumped out of the way of the first train. The Railways agreed to conduct inquires after initially saying the accident appeared to be a “case of trespassing”.
Many festival-goers had reportedly scaled the boundary wall separating the tracks from the residential areas for a better view of the event, according to The Indian Express. Several of them had also entered the tracks from a nearby level crossing.