SRT eyes rail crossing danger spots

SRT eyes rail crossing danger spots

Govt urges better safety after crash

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha backs the Transport Ministry's move to seek a budget to ensure safety at railway crossings, following a deadly train crash in Nakhon Pathom on Sunday.

The collision took place at the rail crossing in tambon Ngiew Rai of Nakhon Chaisi district where an excursion train slammed into the front of a coach that was crossing the rail track, killing the coach driver and two passengers and injuring 27 others.

An automatic safety barrier had been installed at the railway crossing but was not yet working.

Deputy Transport Minister Ormsin Chivapruck said yesterday the premier ordered him to deal with various parties involved in the incident.

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) had been told to examine railway crossings where accidents happen frequently and come up with solutions, he said.

The premier said a budget request could be made to ensure better safety at those sites, Mr Ormsin noted.

Referring to the accident, he said the Department of Rural Roads (DRR) was responsible for constructing a road across the rail track and the safety barrier was built four months ago.

The department is drafting a report for the SRT explaining why the barrier was not functional.

Mr Ormsin said he had instructed the DRR to test-run and operate safety barriers at 20 railway crossings by this week.

According to the minister, the SRT set a 651-million-baht budget to improve safety at 200 railway crossings in the 2016 fiscal year and a 500-million-baht budget for another 160 locations in the next fiscal year. There are currently 2,624 railway crossings nationwide.

Mr Ormsin also said he had asked Land Transport Department chief Sanit Promwong to call a meeting this week with bus operators who will be asked to urge their drivers to be more careful when crossing rail tracks.

Stiff warnings are needed as high-traffic volume over the Songkran holiday is approaching, he noted.

SRT governor Wuthichart Kalyanamitr said automatic safety barriers will be installed at 584 railway crossings between this year and the next.

However, he expressed concerns about makeshift crossings constructed by locals.

He said the SRT has asked locals and local administrative organisations to stop building the crossings, which are seldom marked and can cause accidents.

"The number of makeshift crossings continues to rise. In some places, we took legal action against those who try to make the makeshift crossings," Mr Wuthichart said.

Referring to Sunday's train collision, he said the train driver tested negative after an alcohol test.

The driver insisted the train was travelling at 45km/h when the crash occurred and he had sounded the train's horn before the collision.

Some reports suggested loud music was playing in the coach, which might explain why the driver apparently failed to hear the horn.

Cooperation must also be sought with motorists when approaching railway crossings as some motorcycles jump the barriers, Mr Wuthichart added.

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