String of deadly train-car collisions spurs rail crossing upgrades

String of deadly train-car collisions spurs rail crossing upgrades

Another day, another train-car collision.

With almost 600 unregulated railroad crossings in Thailand, accidents are becoming a near-daily occurrence. So after six people were killed and 21 seriously injured this week alone, the Transport Ministry announced it would take steps to upgrade safety at grade crossings across the country.

The wreckage left after a truck was hit by a train in Khon Kaen Thursday morning.

Transport Minister Prajin Juntong said at least 584 railway crossings were built throughout the kingdom by locals without coordination with the State Railway of Thailand. These unofficial crossings, likely not marked on SRT maps, increase the risk of trains hitting cars or people because locomotive engineers don't expect anyone to be crossing there.

ACM Prajin said he assigned a working group to address the problem, with the first step seeing the SRT install warning lights at the ad hoc crossings to alert motorists of oncoming trains.

He said the SRT is now installing barriers at 775 crossings brought under its supervision. In addition, the railway was allocated 403 million baht in the 2015 budget to install barriers at an additional 130 crossings.

But he noted that the SRT estimates it will take 3 billion baht to complete all the work. Additional funds will have to be requested for next year's budget, ACM Prajin added.

There were no lights or barriers at the crossing where Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai train No 413 struck a Chai Nat-registered ten-wheeled truck in Khon Kaen's Muang district Thursday.

Nakhon Ratchasima-Nong Khai train No 413 derailed after striking a Chai Nat-registered ten-wheeled truck in Khon Kaen's Muang district Thursday. (Photos by Jakkrapan Nathanri)

SRT spokeswoman Nuan-anong Wongchan said four people were killed, 20 were seriously hurt and 60 sustained minor injuries in the 10.25am accident at an unmarked crossing at Ban Nong Kung in tambon Sila.

Killed were train engineers Phet Paendee and Damri Kosalarp, and passengers Narong Dejma and an unidentified Buddhist monk. Fourteen injured passengers were admitted to Srinakarin Hospital and six others to Khon Kaen Regional Hospital. About 60 others were treated at the scene.

Eyewitnesses said the incident occurred about 15 minutes out of Khon Kaen station as the train headed for Nong Khai. Train drivers saw the truck loaded with dirt start to cross the tracks and did not stop even after they blew the horn.

The accident follows a similar train-car collision on Tuesday in Phitsanulok province. Pakrasami Makradi, 35, of Phrom Phiram district was hurt when Den Chai-Bangkok train No 108 rammed her Honda City car at a grade crossing between the Phrom Phiram and Khwae Noi stations. She claimed her car stalled on the tracks.

Two others struck by a train a day earlier weren't as lucky. The couple died when a Bangkok-Hua Hin train smashed into their car at an unmarked crossing in Phetchaburi on Monday, The car burst into flames in the accident between the Phetchaburi and Kao Tamone stations.

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