An automatic warning system at a railroad crossing in Ha Noi's Thanh Tri District
This is part of a plan over railroad crossings approved by the Ministry of Transport, aiming to improve road safety and ease traffic at accident-prone crossings.
Under the plan, nine main routes include Ha Noi- HCM City, Yen Vien Town in Ha Noi-Lao Cai Province, Ha Noi-Lang Son Province's Dong Dang Town, Ha Noi's Dong Anh-Thai Nguyen Province's Quan Trieu, Ha Noi's Gia Lam-Hai Phong, Bac Giang Province's Kep Town-Quang Ning Province's Ha Long City, Kep Town-Ha Noi's Luu Xa, Ha Noi's Bac Hong Commune-Ha Noi's Van Dien and Yen Vien-Cai Lan.
The plan targets building 57 viaducts, nearly 400 railroad crossings, upgrading over 560 crossings, erecting over 500 kilometres of barriers to separate railway tracks from roads or residential areas.
Vice chairman of National Committee for Traffic Safety Nguyen Hoang Hiep told Viet Nam News that the implementation of the plan from now until 2020 was necessary in joint efforts to improve traffic safety in Viet Nam.
Each year, the number of people dying in railway accidents accounts for about 2 per cent of all deaths in Viet Nam, and a majority of railway accidents reportedly happen at crossings, especially at illegally-built crossings, he said.
At present, Viet Nam has nearly 3,200 kilometres of railway with about 6,000 railroad crossings. However, just 1,000 were built legally while the rest were built illegally as shortcuts by households who live along railways, he said.
Moreover, proper barriers separating railway track and roads were erected at only one third of the 1,000 legal crossings, and only one third are equipped with warning signals, the other locations have neither barriers or warning signals, he said, adding that poor rail facilities posed high traffic risks.
Hiep said that under the plan, more roads running parallel to the railway would be opened to reduce the number of illegal crossings.
At crowded traffic points, viaducts or vaults could be built, he said, adding that last month, the construction of the project's first three viaducts were kicked off in northern Ninh Binh Province, central Nghe An Province and southern Dong Nai Province.
Mr. Hiep urged localities to take more drastic measures to control safety at crossings, as it was likely that they failed to oversee the construction of the illegal crossings. The number of illegal crossing increased from 5,300 in 2011 to 6,000 last year.
Head of Viet Nam Railway Corporation's Railway Safety Management Board Pham Van Binh said that each year, it spends over VND10 billion ($474,000) to correct the problems related to traffic and railways.
Moreover, he said that some accidents damaged trains, causing them to change schedules or arrange other trains to carry passengers or goods.
"Too many railroad crossings lack automatic warning systems and commuters lack proper awareness, which is a threat to traffic safety," he said.
In July, a train from Ha Noi to Hai Phong derailed after a collision with a container truck in northern Hai Duong Province. It was reported that the driver crossed the railway without noticing the approaching train, causing an accident which claimed no loss of life but blocked traffic on the route.
Residents living near the scene in the province's Hong Lac commune said that they saw many fatal accidents involving trains and other vehicles due to the lack of any separating barriers there.