In Feni, a concerning rise in accidents at rail tracks, especially at unauthorized level crossings, has led to eight fatalities and numerous injuries over the past four months. These incidents, often resulting from a combination of unauthorized crossings, gateman negligence, and the public's lack of awareness, underscore the urgent need for improved railway safety measures.
Swapna Rani Debi, a 42-year-old land deed writer, tragically lost her life under a train while navigating the level crossing at Shahdadpur, highlighting the grave risks associated with these crossings. The Feni railway sector, stretching 27 kms from Sashardi to Muhuriganj, comprises 22 authorized and 12 unauthorized crossings, with a significant concentration of the latter at Muhuriganj.
Riton Chakma, deputy assistant engineer of Railway’s East region, said, “Roads are being built over the level crossing and six unauthorized level-crossings are in Muhuriganj point alone while six others are in Sashardi, Dewanganj and Fazilpur points.”
Despite efforts to close these unauthorized paths, locals continue to create new routes, often leading to disastrous outcomes.
Feni Barahipur level crossing gateman, Jibon, noted that despite lowering gates upon receiving signals, impatience and reckless attempts to cross the tracks contribute significantly to the accidents.
Feni Rail Station Master Md Harun attributes the proliferation of unauthorized crossings to residential developments along the railway, exacerbating the risk of trackside fatalities.
In addition to Swapna Rani Debi, the past four months have seen the deaths of Farida Yeasmin, Md Rubel, Md Sharif, and Shahidul Islam on the Dhaka-Chattogram rail track in Feni, with three other victims remaining unidentified.
The issue was starkly highlighted on October 11, 2022, when a train collided with a bus at the Fatehpur level crossing on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway, resulting in four deaths.
The Railway Division reports that Feni hosts 34 level crossings, with 22 authorized and managed by 56 gatemen. Deputy Assistant Engineer Riton Chakma of the Railway East region has pledged phased initiatives to secure the 12 unauthorized crossings.
Shahadat Hossain, general secretary of Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan), identifies the main causes of the increased fatalities as unauthorized construction of crossings, lack of public and driver awareness, and gateman negligence. This alarming trend calls for immediate action to enhance safety and awareness at rail crossings.