While railway crossings are marked with warning signs and train drivers loudly blow their horns before reaching the intersections, rare accidents through negligence still occur, causing death, injury and damage to vehicles.
Despite a series of recent notorious incidents, there are, unlike for car crashes, no official records on the number of accidents at railway crossings, according to a senior railways department official.
In October 2021, a train hit a car on the railway crossing over National Road 4 near Veal Renh town in Samrong Krom village, Samrong commune, in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nop district. The driver of the car was seriously injured, dying later in hospital.
In July 2022, a tricycle was damaged in a collision with a train after a man had parked it by a railway line. Nobody was hurt in the incident, which took place in Prey Sala Village, Kakab 2 commune, in Phnom Penh’s Por Senchey district.
Chreng Thy, Kakab 2 commune police chief, told The Post that the train was travelling from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh railway station.
“This incident happened because the owner of the tricycle was negligent, complacent due to the night being quiet – but a train came through and hit his vehicle.
“I returned the tricycle to its owner, and I urge those crossing the railway to always be careful,” Thy said.
In another case, a 30-year-old deaf man was hit by a train while walking along the railway. He was killed instantly.
The accident occurred at Samrong Krom village, Samrong commune, in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nop district. The victim had no wife or children and lived with relatives in Samrong Krom village.
Suon Kimsam, a Prey Nop district deputy police chief, told The Post that witnesses living near the scene told him that before the accident they had seen the victim staggering as if drunk. They said he was holding a carrier bag of beers in one hand.
While the witnesses were alerted to the train from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville by the sounding of its horn, they did not notice that the man had been hit until his body was later found by the railway tracks.
“The face of the victim was smashed in and unrecognisable, while his body was found on the other side of the railway tracks,” Kimsam said.
While rare, train accidents do occasionally happen.
According to Prey Nop district deputy police chief Kimsam, Samrong Krom village, due to its location, is an area of particular caution for residents, especially children, while there was a ban on the release of animals.
With two large commercial areas housing a large number of factories located in Samrong commune – the Sihanoukville and Jay Cheang special economic zones – many employees have to cross the railway to get to work.
“We ask for cooperation from factory owners so they allow the workers to attend the meetings we hold in the factories on safety. We also regularly carry out educational outreaches in the villages.
“These are to remind people to be careful about accidents on railway tracks. Accidents can result in death or disability, with the consequences remaining for life,” Kimsam said.
Education on railway safety was carried out at a range of other events, he added, with monks and achars – lay Buddhists – also encouraged to do so during religious ceremonies.
While there were no official instructions on the frequency of educational outreaches, Prey Nop district authorities said they were carried out regularly in garment factories due to the large number of workers.
Authorities had also placed a number of signs on the way to the factories carrying the slogan “Today And Tomorrow, Cause No Road Accidents”.
Kimsam said that factory workers can be in such a hurry to get to or from work on their motorcycles that they can sometimes fail to notice a train is coming. From the beginning of January this year to July, one person was killed in an accident with a train.
“As it is very challenging, factory workers can often be in a rush to get to the factory, and when they are in a hurry, they ride their motorcycles carelessly.
“A motorcycle is not like a car – braking is a lot more difficult if there is an obstacle up ahead,” he said.
Long Choeun, deputy police chief of Takeo province’s Samrong district, told The Post that six communes – Rovieng, Chumrak Pen, Samrong, Singh, Boeung Tranh Khang Tbong and Lumchang – were dissected with railway crossings.
He said that despite the high number of crossings in the district, the number of incidents with trains was relatively low, with two cases – one fatal – from the beginning of 2021 until now.
Choeun said authorities used a wide range of means to educate local people on safety around railway lines.
“We use slogans and other measures to prevent accidents, such as education on the importance of driving carefully when crossing the railway.
“We must know how to remain safe, and while at every place where a train passes there is a warning sign and a blast from the horn from the train, drivers must always be careful and exercise caution,” he said.
Uk Uok, director of the Railway Department at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, told The Post his department did not have records of deaths due to railway accidents.
He said incidents with trains often occurred due to people’s negligence, with some even sitting on the tracks to eat.
When this occurred, he said, officials would explain the seriousness of their actions and educate them on the dangers.
“There are barriers to prevent motorists from crossing when a train comes, while in areas where railways pass through, warning signs have been put up and our officials explain to residents about the dangers,” he said.
He said while not as busy as roads, trains can pose a risk for people living in areas the railways pass through, and so a number of safety measures were put in place.
“The train drivers blow the horn to let people know it is coming, because if they are alerted in advance, they will be very careful, and if they are careful, they will not be in danger.
“Operators are instructed to be even more careful at night, with trains driven at lower speeds and powerful headlights to illuminate the track and surrounding area.
“There is normally a stop sign at each crossing for people to wait and look left and right before crossing, with collisions most of the time being caused when they fail to do so. But while there have been some cases recently, it does not happen often,” Uok said.