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Female railtrack guards face abuse

Update: February, 05/2016 - 09:30
A female railway crossing guard closes a safety barrier at a crossing on Giai Phong Road in Ha Noi. — VNS Photo Truong Vi

HA NOI (VNS) — Many female railway crossing guards in Ha Noi work hard to make sure road users stay safe, despite the hardships they face, Kinh te do thi (Economic and Urban Affairs) newspaper reported.

Tran Thi Nhan, who has been a railway crossing guard for the Ha Noi Railway Safety Barrier Management Team for a decade, works from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

In Viet Nam, a railway crossing guard is a person who pulls the safety barrier shut a few minutes before a train runs through crossing to prevent the train from hitting vehicles. The person then pushes the safety barrier back open when the train is gone.

Nhan said her job was not as simple as people assumed.

"It requires us to guarantee safety for the train, other vehicles and…ourselves," she said. Nhan was hit by a truck in 2009 while trying to prevent it from hitting a train.

The Kim Lien A Rail Safety Barrier Station in Hai Ba Trung District where Nhan worked was in a busy intersection – especially during rush hour.

It was normal to see people ignoring warnings from railway crossing guards and trying to pass over the level crossing when trains were coming, she said.

"Men shout or even threaten to hit me when I pull the safety barrier to stop them from passing," she said. "I don't know what to do but tell them it's for the safety of everyone."

However, they would continue to shout at her, she said.

A colleague of Nhan, Nguyen Thi Kim Dung, is a railway crossing guard with 20 years of experience. She said it's always hard to close the safety barriers because of the high density of vehicles driving through.

About 15 trains run through the level crossing per day. But during Tet (Lunar New Year), the number doubles and trains arrive at less consistent times, she added. "We have a lot of work to do when Tet comes."

Dung said she has celebrated Lunar New Year's Eve at the station 15 times during her 20 years of work.

"I often feel a mixture of happy and sad," she said. "Happy to welcome in the first train of the Lunar New Year, but sad because I'm missing the atmosphere of my family's reunion when the New Year comes."

Truong Nam Long, head of the team, said she supervised 73 labourers, 51 of whom were women.

Although it's a hard job, railway crossing guards only receive about VND3 million (US$133) per month.

In spite of the difficulties, both Nhan and Dung said they love their job and are dedicated to it.

They said their love grew whenever they warned someone who wasn't paying attention about the arrival of a train or saved a person who intended to commit suicide by standing in the train tracks. — VNS


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