Indian freight train.

INDIA: Level crossing accidents remain one of the biggest external safety risks for the rail sector, and last month saw several of the major international railway associations sign up to a European convention on road safety, as part of an awareness campaign aimed at reducing the number of fatalities and serious injuries.

Indian Railways also faces the problem of level crossings and widespread trespassing on its tracks. But a current project is focusing on some larger trespassers who have the potential to inflict significant damage to its trains. Over the past 20 years more than 118 elephants have been killed on the IR network, notably in the Rajaji national park in the Himalayan foothills.

The 820 km2 park is home to around 400 wild elephants, who must cross an 18 km section of railway and the nearby four-lane road linking Haridwar and Rishikesh as they roam between watering holes. After a six-year study of ways to reduce the accident toll, including earth banks alongside the tracks, putting the railway into tunnel or the road on a viaduct, the Wildlife Trust of India has applied to the High Court for powers to try a new approach.

It plans to build two flyovers, each around 1 200 m long and 100 m wide, which would be strong enough to support the elephants — who are reportedly very sensitive to vibrations. The flyovers would be camouflaged with foliage, and tapering banks at each end would guide the elephants on and off the walkways. The structures are provisionally costed at Rs650m each, and could be completed within nine months of planning permission being granted.