The deaths recorded at railway level crossing particularly in Ogun and Lagos states have become worrisome and unnerving as management of Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) seems to be unable to find a lasting solution to the problem.
Only last week, on Thursday, January 10, 2019 to be precise, an Ijoko to Iddo-bound Mass Transit Train derailed at Ashade Market near the railway level crossing leading to Guinness Nigeria Limited. Although, no life was lost, two coaches derailed and one of the derailed coaches was slanted and almost touched the ground while passengers sustained various degrees of injuries.
Similarly, few months ago at PWD Level Crossing, Ikeja, a commercial motorcyclist and policeman were crushed to death by an Ijoko to Iddo bound Mass Transit Train.
The Lagos District Manager of Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) Engr Jerry Oche, however accused states, local governments and communities that were authorized by the Corporation to construct roads across railway lines of not meeting their obligations of funding the maintenance of Level Crossing gates/barriers and Flagmen in their domain as entrenched in the Act establishing the Corporation.
According to Oche, the cost of maintaining level crossing barriers/gates as well as Flagmen regulating traffic at Level Crossings across the country has over the years been left to management of the Corporation instead of states, local governments and communities located along railway corridors.
He explained that the states, Local governments and communities located at railway corridors had at one time or the other applied to NRC to construct roads across railway lines with a caveat to pay monthly dues to the Corporation for maintenance of level crossing gates/barriers and payment of salaries to Flagmen stationed at such level crossing.
Oche stated further that “So far no state, local government and community have met the obligation of paying monthly dues after paying the initial deposit to enable them construct roads across railway lines just as they have not Installed Level Crossing gates/barriers at such locations.
He attributed the accident that led to death of a Policeman and commercial motorcyclist at PWD railway Level Crossingto an attempt by the latter to maneuver and pass through the Level Crossing in disobedience of the flagman that earlier stopped him.
According to him, “All the motorists coming from Oshodi and Ikeja GRA were flagged down at the rail/road intersection at PWD Railway Level Crossing but the commercial motorcyclist ignored the warning in preference to cross the railway line only to be knocked down by an oncoming train.”
Advising motorists, he said, “When approaching a Level Crossing motorists and pedestrians should endeavour to stop, look and listen before moving ahead.”
The District Manager stated categorically that the braking distance of a train is 0.8 Kilometers (800 meters) and that a train driver cannot apply brake at short distance otherwise there would be many casualties especially passengers inside the train.
He advised the motoring public not to see railway tracks as a place to play due to the danger inherent.
Oche also posited that not all the dead bodies seen on railway lines are caused by train accidents but that the Corporation spends thousands of naira to remove such bodies that might have been deposited by ritualists at night after removing vital parts in order to pave “right of way” for trains.
He also alleged that oftentimes some Level Crossing barriers/gates are damaged by motorist and abandoned for NRC to repair.
As for the accident at Ashade Level Crossings last Thursday, Director Operations, Mr. Niyi Alli said management of the Corporation is doing everything to ensure it does not occur again.
Managing director, First Rit Nigeria Limited, a transport and logistics company, Mr Eric Umezurike, however decried the approach of the Corporation’s management in the regulation of traffic at Railway Level Crossing throughout the country adding that the report about the bad state of the tracks at Ashade Market was earlier sent to the management but nothing was done until the accident happened.
He noted that but for divine intervention, many passengers could have lost their lives considering the way one of the coaches slanted and almost touched the ground.
Umezurike pointed out that management of the Corporation should take the responsibility of erecting Level Crossing gates and maintaining same instead of passing the bulk to local governments, communities and states.
Mr. Austin Nwachuckwu in his contribution said, “The Act establishing Nigerian Corporation has been long overdue for review adding that the fact that states, local governments and communities seek approvals from NRC after paying initial deposit does not mean they should be responsible for the maintenance of Level Crossing in their domain.
He averred that since NRC is using the tracks to operate trains and generate revenue, it should be responsible for the construction and maintenance of Level Crossing.
Mr. Chris Oparah attributed the train accident at Ashade Market Level Crossing to faulty tracks and lack of maintenance.
According to him most times heavy duty trucks owned by Guinness Nigeria Plc ply the Ashade Market Level Crossing adding that the tracks must be checked regularly and a Level Crossing gate erected at the place and other locations where there are rail/road intersections to avert future occurrence.
Checks however shows that some of the Railway Level Crossing in Lagos and Ogun states neither have gates nor flagmen. For instance, at Iju, Agbado, Rafco and Ashade Railway Level Crossing, there are no gates and flagmen thus motorists are compelled to use their discretion to watch out for oncoming trains before driving through the aforementioned Railway Level Crossing.
However there are Level Crossing gates and staff at Jibowu, Mushin, Arena, Ikeja, Oyingbo and Agege Level Crossing who are responsible for regulating traffic whenever trains are approaching.
The conclusion from the responses from commuters is that Management of the Corporation should do the needful by either enforcing the law which stipulates that state, local governments and communities should pay for maintenance of Level Crossing or take the responsibility of doing same so as to avert future deaths caused by train accidents at Railway Level Crossing.