Victim of Lagos Collapsed Building
Bennett Oghifo writes on the recurrence of train accidents in the country and the need for actions on signalling and for public enlightenment to be taken to check the ugly trend
But for divine intervention, over 900 passengers would have lost their lives on August 31, as a passenger train rammed into a truck, at the Ilupeju area of Lagos state, just a few days after a pregnant woman was killed in Ikeja area of the state as a result of a collision of a train and a bus on a level crossing.
According to a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report, over 900 passengers escaped death last week when a 10-coach Iddo bound train rammed into a trailer truck at Ilupeju Railway crossing near Oshodi, Lagos. The accident, which occurred at 7:30 a.m or thereabouts, led to traffic gridlock along the road for several hours.
An eye witness said that the articulated vehicle blocked the railway crossing when the train was already close by. The loaded trailer had crashed into the double barriers on the railway crossing shortly before the train arrived.
On seeing the approaching train, the driver jumped out of the trailer and ran away. The train then dragged the truck for some distance, scattering the goods inside it, which were mostly empty cartons of Malta Guinness drink, along the track. The dragging of the truck also led to the damaging of some vehicles parked along the rail track by motor mechanics.
A pregnant woman had lost her life when a commercial vehicle popularly referred to as J5 wagon was hit by an oncoming train which resulted in her death while five other passengers were injured.
The train which was coming from the Agege axis hit the mid-section of the vehicle with registration number XE 899 FGG at Ikeja area of Lagos damaging the left side before turning it in the opposite direction.
In a related development, a passenger was killed and another broke his legs while rushing to board a moving train at Agbado Train Station in Agbado, Ogun State, recently.
The two separate accidents were linked with the Ijoko-Lagos Mass Transit Trains services of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC). The mangled body of the dead victim was pulled out from the wheels of the overcrowded train and placed beside the rail track, while the man with a broken leg was taken to a nearby hospital.
“The man that died rushed to board the train while in motion, he would have succeeded but was blocked by passengers hanging at the entrance,” said a witness who did not want his name published.
Meanwhile, the Lagos Sate Government has urged the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), to improve its safety control measures.
Director-General of the Lagos State Safety Commission (LSSC), Mrs. Dominga Odebunmi said, “Recent developments are pointers to the fact that safety measures are not in place at the train stations. As a proactive government we cannot remain silent, knowing that necessary steps have not been taken to change the situation.”
She said, “We will continue to mount pressure on the management until they can demonstrate that they are on top of the situation, but right now we are not pleased with what they have on ground.”
Affirming the increasing rate of accidents, especially on level crossings, the Nigerian Railway Corporation has said over 80 per cent of rail accidents occur at the level crossings. It said the report was based on a recent research of rail accidents, and warned pedestrians, motorists and other road users to be safety conscious when approaching the rail track. It said the warning became necessary in view of its rising train operations across the country.
NRC says it has commenced a safety campaign at its level crossings and some designated motor parks, according to the Public Relations Officer, Mr. Segun Esan. The corporation said the action was aimed at reducing the spate of collision of vehicles at the level crossings.
He said, “Facts and records of past instances of collision of vehicles with the trains have revealed that over 80 per cent of such accidents occurred at the level crossings.”
The safety campaign, he said, began with the involvement of members of the National Youth Corps attached to NRC as a project group.
The Deputy Director for Research, Health, Safety and Environmental Services, Mr. James Gyang said, “The track is getting busier these days as frequency of trains keeps increasing and it will be most unfortunate if other level crossing users are not reminded from time to time of the need for extreme caution at the level crossing.
“This is why we are out to enlighten members of the public on what to do at the level crossings in order to ensure safety of all.”
Also, Mr Ademuyiwa Adekanbi, the Lagos District Public Relations Officer of the Railways, said that the corporation has embarked on enough enlightenment campaigns on the use of the Railway Crossings.
“We have done enough jingles on radio and television, we have rallies and distributed fliers to sensitise people of the right of way of a train at level crossings,” he said.
Beyond public enlightenment, another critical area that must be looked into by the NRC to forestall further mishaps across rail lines in the country is equipping of the lines with the proper signalling equipment.
With the existing narrow gauge Western Line that runs from Lagos to Kano and the Eastern line that runs from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, there are hardly any signalling equipment installed.
The only existing standard gauge line from Ajaokuta in Kogi state to Warri in Delta also has no signalling system at the moment. With a mixture of freight and passenger traffic on all the lines as well as the interface the rail tracks have with the road infrastructure, the importance of signalling cannot be over emphasized.
In a country like Nigeria, railway signalling is particularly important considering the fact that most road users are always in a hurry to beat traffic with maneuverings only expected at circuses.
Globally, signalling is seen as the backbone to the safety and efficiency of the railnetwork. The signalling system on the railway can be likened to the traffic light system on the roads where the system gives priority to a certain lane in order to avoid collusions and traffic jams.
Railway signalling works similarly but with a lot more responsibility.
Experts say it is also responsible for determining speed limits and general positioning of the train at any time in constant communication with a control room with an oversight of the entire rail network. It also comprises passenger information systems and all other safety systems that are integrated into the signalling system.
Generally, railway signalling is categorised in to two parts: On-board and trackside devices. On-board simply means the installation of signalling equipment on the train itself to communicate with the control room. Trackside means the deployment of signalling equipment in close proximity to the track along the entire length of the rail network. Both systems work hand in hand with the control room for seamless operation of the rail system guaranteeing safety and efficiency.