WEB DESK: As if tragedy must follow festivities; on this Eidul Azha too there were a number of rail and road accidents that claimed numerous lives.
Among them the most costly was near the city of Multan where the Karachi-bound Awam Express rammed into a stationary freight train having overrun a person who officials say committed suicide. Four died on the spot while scores were injured, some critically.
In another accident which took place in Fateh Jang, three persons lost their lives as their vehicle was hit by Mahar Express at an unmanned level crossing. Three others in the vehicle were grievously hurt. Given a bit more attention to the idea on the part of driver in the first case and passengers in the vehicle in the second that life is God’s most precious gift and should be cared about, both the accidents could be averted. Some kind of recklessness is clearly detectable in both the cases.
According to some eyewitnesses, Awam Express driver ignored the red signal which had gone up in view of the fact that the track he was on was blocked by the freight train. Was it the past-midnight cool breeze of desert that had numbed his senses or was it visual deception that he took red for the green? Freight train was just a minute away and Awam Express smashed into the back of the stationary train. As a result four coaches overturned, trapping the passengers inside.
The driver of Awam Express, who is said to be quite senior in his category and was recipient of an award recently, insists that signal was green, which he said he expected to be the case given that his train was not supposed to stopping at the upcoming railway station. There are also reports that the signal system was being updated and faced some teething troubles. It is hoped the concerned officials would thoroughly investigate the cause that led to train crash which cost several lives.
And there is a controversy over the Fateh Jang accident also. It is not about why the young men didn’t look around before traversing through the unmanned level crossing; it is about why there was no guard to stop the road traffic when train was coming.
According to the Railways Divisional Superintendent, in that area unmanned level crossing is normal and it is the duty of the provincial government to provide funds for installing gates and deploy guards to open and close them during the movement of trains.
The funds provided last year were just enough to install gates at 14 points, and many others are still left unattended. But the provincial government says it is waiting for request for funds and as and when it comes funds would be allocated. Perhaps, more than pinning responsibility on any of the two sides or on both it is imperative also that public should be asked to be careful while traversing through unmanned level crossings.
In fact, there are so many things, and much more important, that the Pakistan Railways should undertake in order to be able to keep pace with the needs dictated both by technology and trained manpower. Simply put, the railway system requires thorough overhaul in terms of replacing its aging infrastructure and bureaucratic culture.
Last November 19 people died in a train crash in south-western Balochistan when its brakes failed. In 2015 also, at least 17 people were killed when train fell into a canal in Punjab when the bridge it was passing collapsed. It has seen decades of decline due to corruption, mismanagement and lack of investment. Go to any rail yard, you will see how much of track is unused and is rusting, how much of its land has been encroached upon by others and why it is still there decades after trains no more stop there.
We should not forget that to move bulk freight and carry passengers across long distances railways is still the best option. It should be restored to its first glory which it enjoyed during the colonial days and many years after.
Source: Business Recorder