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Speeding drivers derail jumbo safety

 

MONDAY, 07 JANUARY 2013

The Pioneer, MOUSHUMI BASU | NEW DELHI 

The spree of killing of the national heritage animal, elephants, on railway tracks continues unabated. A week ago, six jumbos were mowed down by a speeding train in Odisha and four others met a similar fate in West Bengal’s Buxa Tiger Reserve on Saturday night. The respective forest departments and the railways have now indulged in blame game.

The Director of Project Elephant, Environment Ministry, AM Singh, has claimed that the accidents took place as in both the cases the trains were moving at a high speed. The drivers obviously took no note of the signages along the tracks stating that it was an elephant crossing zone.

At a recent visit to Odisha, Singh gave four major suggestions to the local forest and railway officials. These included lowering of speed, clearing all vegetation around at least 30 metres of area on either side of the track, installation of high beam lights near the signages for better visibility, and mandatory hooting by trains crossing a vulnerable stretch.

While four elephants were killed and two calves seriously injured by the speeding Gauhati-bound Jhaja Express in the Buxa Tiger Reserve on Saturday night, six elephants were mowed down by the Superfast Coromandel Express in Odisha’s Ganjam district last week.

“In both the cases, the trains were passing at a speed of about 110-120 km/hour,” said Singh. Talking to The Pioneer, he pointed out that when signages had been put along the track, there was no justification for drivers to cross the prescribed 50 kmph limit.

He further pointed out that the vulnerable tracks across the 1,800-km stretch of Chennai-Howrah route is less than 10 km in length, and lowering the speed of the train can delay the train maximum by eight minutes.

The issue would be taken up at the Railway Ministry level, informed Singh. He regretted that the decisions taken at high-level meetings between the Environment Ministry and the Railway Ministry in September 4, 2009, had not been followed.

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