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New Delhi: The railways and the road transport and highways ministries will form a coordination committee to expedite clearances for railway over-bridge (ROBs) designs.

The decision was taken at a meeting called by railways and road transport and highways minister C.P. Joshi on his first day in office as the railways minister.

Designs of such over-bridges that are a part of road projects are cleared by different departments of the railways to ensure that traffic on the rail line beneath will not be obstructed.

“Currently, this process typically takes up about 12-15 months. With the formation of the co-ordination committee, the two ministries aim to reduce it to around three months," a top official of the National Highways Authority of India said on condition of anonymity.

In response to a question in Parliament on 14 August, the road transport and highways ministry listed seven projects that are held up in part due to delays in getting clearances for the rail over-bridges.

Among these is a bypass road in Madhya Pradesh, with a project cost of 151 crore and funded by the Asian Development Bank, that has been delayed by almost four years.

“Design clearances of around 85 ROBs in different central road projects have been pending with the Railways for more than a year, although railway officials informed us that 46 of them have been cleared," a road transport and highways ministry official said, also declining to be named.

Construction of ROBs is an important aspect of rail safety as regular road crossings across rail tracks are the biggest cause of accidents on India’s rail network. Press Trust of India reported the deaths of five people, including an infant, when a car was hit by the Hapa-Tirunelveli Express at an unmanned level crossing in Kochi on Sunday.

A senior government official said that the reasons for delay in getting these approvals was a lack of co-ordination between the two ministries. “If a centralized model for coordination, that includes National Highways Authority of India, is operationalized, state departments can use the same and clearances to these ROBs can be processed faster," said the official, who declined to be identified. Earlier this year, a committee constituted by former railways minister Dinesh Trivedi under the chairmanship of nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar recommended the elimination of all railway level crossings—manned and unmanned— over the next five years.

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