Is the railways liable even if the train engine driver cannot be faulted?
A legal notice was served to four persons including the secretary of Railways ministry to disallow un-authorized level crossings across the country.
The notice also demanded a compensation of Tk1 crore and Tk10 lakh respectively for each victims - either killed or injured - in a collision between Dhaka-bound Padma Express train and a microbus at an un-manned level crossing in Ullapara, Sirajganj, on July 15.
The notice also asked the authorities concerned to take steps to bar passengers travelling on the roofs of trains.
Supreme Court lawyer Barrister Humayun Kabir Pallab forwarded the legal notice on Wednesday by mail. He said if necessary steps are not taken within 24 hours, a writ petition will be filed with the High Court.
The lawyer said, according to the Railways Act - 1890, if any department wants to install a level crossing, it will have to take permission from the Railways authorities.
Un-authorized and unmanned level crossings account for a significant number of deaths and incidents in Bangladesh.
On July 15, ten people, including a newlywed couple, were killed and dozens injured in a collision between the Padma Express train and a microbus at a level crossing in Ullapara, Sirajganj.
The deadly accident occurred near the Ali Ahmed High School at Shahikhola village in the upazila’s Panchakroshi union around 6:30pm, police confirmed.
Eight of the 10 victims — seven men, two women and a child — were from one family and killed on the spot after the train collided with the microbus they were on, said Ullapara police inspector Md Golam Mostofa.
He said the level crossing, situated on the north side of the Salap Railway station, had no gates or guards.
Bangladesh Railway’s west zone divisional manager Mizanur Rahman, however, said the microbus driver was at fault for the accident as he had rushed to cross the level crossing even after seeing the oncoming express train.
“Bangladesh Railway is not responsible for this,” he said. “This level crossing is also not under the railway’s jurisdiction. The locals opened this crossing and used it.”
Meanwhile, the West zone railway formed a four-member committee to investigate into the incident. It was ordered to submit its findings within 72 hours, said Mizanur.
This is not the first time that an incident of this nature occurred, so some questions need to be asked. Is there any mandate for manning all level crossings?
In an incident such as this, where the micro-bus driver was reportedly negligent, is the railway administration liable even if the train engine driver cannot be faulted?
The railway administration should have continuous audit of tracks; when new roads come on either side, traffic must be calibrated, adequate infrastructure built, and safety measures put in place.