Railway Minister D V Sadanada Gowda told Lok Sabha on Thursday that the accident took place due to negligent driving by the driver of the school bus. The driver did not stop the bus at the Stop Board just before the level crossing to check for the approaching train as prescribed in the Motors Vehicle Act.
Mr. Gowda also said visibility at this relatively low density unmanned level crossing was clear from all sides and basic infrastructure such as road signs, speed breakers, whistle boards and proper approach roads was in place.
Immediately after the Minister’s statement, Telangana Rashtra Samithi members insisted on getting a word in despite the Chair reminding them that there is no provision for such an intervention at this juncture. The TRS contention was that the compensation was not adequate. Responding, Mr. Gowda said that this was just the ex-gratia payment that is paid immediately after an accident as per existing rules. Compensation and other issues would be taken up subsequently by the department.
Separately, railway officials said the track was straight and there had been no accidents here for the past two years.
They said the railways has 30,348 level crossings out of which about 60 per cent are manned. Both manned and unmanned level crossings contribute 40 per cent of all consequential train accidents.
The railways has allocated 1,785 crores in the current fiscal for eliminating some of the unmanned crossings with each expected to cost about Rs. 4.4 crores. Since 2011, no unmanned level crossings are being provided on new lines.
An analysis of the pattern of accidents has showed that manning of unmanned level crossings in not the ideal solution. Therefore, the railways have decided to progressively eliminate all level crossings through a three-pronged solution – closing unmanned crossings with negligible train vehicle units, merger of unmanned level crossings with manned ones by constructing a diversion road and providing sub-ways or road-under-bridges.
According to the action plan drawn up by the railways, about 3,000 unmanned crossings will be eliminate in the next three years.
Besides the Lok Sabha, President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Sonia Gandhi also condoled the deaths of school children.