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Almost 15,000 die each year crossing India's rail tracks

February 21, 2012

Indian commuters cling to the side of an overcrowded train during rush hour at a suburban railway station in Mumbai—AFP Photo.

NEW DELHI: Almost 15,000 people are killed every year crossing India's rail tracks in what a government report has described as an annual “massacre” due to poor safety standards.

Pedestrians guilty of “unlawful trespassing” walk across the tracks at many unofficial crossing points, the report said, adding that about 6,000 of the deaths occur in the congested and frenetic city of Mumbai alone.

“No civilized society can accept such massacre on their railway system”, the report said, adding that efforts to improve safety needed to be put on a “war footing” to tackle the death toll.

The fatalities equate to 41 people a day across India on the rail network, which carries 18 million people daily and is still the main form of long-distance travel despite fierce competition from private airlines.

In addition to accidents when crossing the tracks, other causes of deaths include train collisions, falling from open doors and being hit by trackside poles.

Most stretches of rail track in India are unfenced, allowing people to attempt crossings at any point.

The High-Level Safety Review Committee report, released last week, criticised the “reluctance” of Indian railway authorities to accept responsibility for the deaths.