On 26-11-21, the tragic incident of three elephants knocked down by train had occurred around 21:00 hours between Walayar and Ettimadai of Palakkad division. The train involved in the incident is Train no: 12602, Mangalore Central – Dr MGR Chennai Central SF express and it was running on A line at the time of the incident. At the location where this incident had happened there is permanent speed restriction of 45 kmph in place from 18:00 hours to 06:00 hours in view of the frequent crossing of wild elephants. It is pertinent to point out that the committee, constituted by Hon’ble National Green Tribunal (NGT), which reviewed the steps taken by Railway and Forest department to contain the mortality of elephants on railway tracks had recommended that the Permanent Speed Restrictions of 45 kmph during night hours and 65 kmph during day time shall continue.
The railway line between Palakkad and Podanur is a twin single line known as A line and B line. It was reported in some sections of the media that on that day of the incident the train involved should not have run on A line. It was incorrect to say so as both the A line and B line can be used for operating trains from either direction. However due to rising gradient of A line towards Podanur side it is difficult to run goods train. Hence taking into account the type of trains run and their load particulars the divisional operating control takes decision as to in which line the train shall be run on case to case basis. In adherence to this operational practice a goods train was run on B line at the time of the incident and hence Train no.12602 had to be run on A line. It is a matter of fact that in the past more cases of elephant hitting had been reported to have occurred on the B line than that of A line and this is more so due to the topographical reasons.
It is hereby stated that Palakkad division of Southern Railway has taken several initiatives and preventive measures to reduce and eliminate the train-elephant collision. They are laid down below:
·Regular clearing of vegetation along the railway tracks to facilitate loco pilots for clear sighting of elephants crossing railway tracks
·Solar fencing at ground level with electric voltage of 12V have been installed to deter elephants from crossing the track
·Elephant ramps have been constructed at suitable locations in Walayar – Ettimadai section in Tamil Nadu at high bank location for passage of elephants without getting entrapped near railway track area
·Widening of cutting/space near track has been done at vulnerable locations in order to provide sufficient space for elephants to move away from railway tracks on sighting of trains on the track.
·Solar lights have been provided at vulnerable locations to improve visibility for loco pilots
In addition to the above both Kerala and Tamil Nadu forest department have engaged elephant trackers who regularly patrol the railway tracks and communicate the information on the movement of the elephants near the track.
Due to such preventive measures and vigilant watch by Southern Railway many incidents of elephant hitting have been averted and precious lives of elephants have been saved. During the year 2020-21 (Till 1st Sep, 2021), 24 incidents of elephants seen near the track have been reported. During the year 2020-21, 2019-20 and 2018-19, 69, 61 and 24 such incidents have been reported respectively.
Southern Railway is also working swiftly and taking measures to implement recommendations made by the Committee, constituted by Hon’ble National Green Tribunal (NGT), which reviewed the steps taken by Railway and Forest department to contain the mortality of elephants on railway tracks.
Southern Railway remains committed to take all preventive measures, in coordination with state forest departments, so as to prevent any such unfortunate case of elephants getting hit by trains in future.