Warning signs are installed in Phước Thuận Commune, Ninh Phước District, the southern province of Ninh Thuận. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyễn Thành

After each north-south journey, train driver Lê Công Thức and his crew members breathe a sigh of relief only when the train arrives at the station safely.

Thức, who works with Thống Nhất Crew No 10 under the Hà Nội Locomotive Enterprise, said that a number of illegal crossroads were opened by residents in different provinces and cities along the railway line.

Accidents are always lurking, and Thức and the crew members do not know when problems may occur.

The railway industry and local authorities have been closing the dangerous passageways, but after a short time, local residents re-open them just to make travel easier for themselves.

Railway accidents are mainly due to motorbike and car drivers’ poor awareness.

At many crossings, when the bell rings, the red light flashes to signal a train’s arrival, but many car and motorbike drivers still try to cross the railway, leading to collisions or even derailment.

Some others still walk, stand or sit close to the illegal crossings. When the train driver discovers them, it's too late.

Many tragic accidents have occurred at railway crossings. Despite local warnings and education campaigns, many people still ignore the danger.

This fact has urged the railway industry to upgrade the crossing system to ensure train safety.

According to Vietnam Railways (VNR), since the beginning of this year, the country saw 68 railway accidents, of which 31 occurred at illegal crossroads, accounting for 46 per cent of the cases. A further 27 cases occurred along the railway line, making up 40 per cent, and the remaining 10 cases at legal crossings with automatic warnings, making up 15 per cent.

Phan Quốc Anh, deputy general director of the VNR, said that the Prime Minister issued Decision No. 358/QĐ-TTg about a scheme to ensure the traffic corridor’s order and safety.

The scheme will handle illegal crossroads and set out a specific route with many infrastructure solutions such as installing fencing and making overpasses and underpasses.

The aim is to eliminate illegal crossings on railway lines in the country by 2025.

Funds required will be allocated from the State and local budget, estimated at more than VNĐ7.1 trillion (US$304.1 million).

The Vietnam Railway Authority under the Ministry of Transport (MoT) also sent documents asking localities to implement Decision 358.

Determining crossings is the most important thing in ensuring train line safety. VNR is implementing many projects to upgrade the crossings.

To date, VNR has upgraded 452 crossings, equipping them with automatic barriers and guards.

This year, VNR will repair and supplement signals at 200 crossings.

It also sent a document to the MoT to propose the Prime Minister extend the time to upgrade and install automatic warning signals at 566 other crossings to the end of 2025.

When completed, there will be automatic sensors at all railway crossings. When the train runs through these sensors, the signal will be transmitted through the railway cable to the control cabinet.

The device at the control cabinet will automatically turn on the bell in the guardhouse to notify the guard staff that the train will arrive in 120 seconds. Then the guard staff will close the barrier, or perform another appropriate operation based on regulations.

Devices at the control cabinet will also automatically turn on the bell and red light at the crossings to warn people on traffic that a train is about to come. — VNS