Railway safety in India has always been the biggest concern. Every year 100s of people lose their lives in train accidents. Governments after government come and go, lakhs and crores of rupees are spent but nothing seems to change the ground reality. When this new government assumed office, it decided to prioritize railway safety above new trains (which was the practice being followed since a long time). People now expected that situation will change but recent train accidents have busted the myth.
Causes of train accidents:
- Derailment: Out of all the train accidents happening in India around 50% are only due to derailment. Though reduced to a great extent still it forms a major chunk of train accidents in India. Some of the reasons for derailment are as follows:
- Scarcity of funds for improvement in existing infrastructure and maintenance.
- Lack of manpower and human labour along with modern machineries and equipments.
- Indian railways for the last 25 years is carrying 15 times more people than its capacity. Overloading is certainly damaging the old tracks, which have a shelf-life that cannot be ignored.
- Unmanned Level Crossing: Unmanned Level Crossings (UMLCs) continue to be the second major reason of train accidents in India. Road users do not take proper precautions and cross lines even if the signal is red, leading to accident.
- Human errors: Indian railways lacks technologies. Therefore chances of human error increase and it is one of the major causes of rail accidents in India. According to internal safety report of Indian railways, 18 out of 21 accidents are caused due to human errors. Lack of safety measures due to lack of fund also aggravates the situation.
It is to be noted that shortage of staff also leads to human errors. Less staff means work overload and overloaded staff leads to carelessness in safety measures.
- Fire in trains: Recently fire in trains have also become one of the major concerns in railway safety. Due to lack of funds, most of the Indian trains are not equipped with fire detection systems which sometimes prove to be disastrous.
- Collisions: Manual signaling system along with lack of technologies such as anti-collision devices makes Indian railways vulnerable to collisions.
Measures taken by the government:
- From financial year (2017-18) Railway budget has been merged with the General budget. It will not only improve railway financing but also help in accountability.
- The government has made a policy to monetize railway property, this will add to the revenue of railways. They have also decided to include private players in some of the fields to bring efficiency.
- This time government has prioritized Railway safety in place of launching new trains. It will enhance safety features in railways and help in automatization.
- The speed of laying track has improved tremendously in recent years. It will decongest railway traffic and also improve railway infrastructure.
- Currently, there are a total of 9340 UMLCs in India out of which 6388 are on broad gauge network. The government has a target to eliminate all UMLCs by the year 2020 under “Mission Zero Accidents”.
- The government has also decided to make all national highway free of railway crossing by 2019 under “Setu Bharatam ” project.
Though accidents cannot be eliminated but it can certainly be avoided. But for that, we need to avoid political rhetoric and think seriously over what needs to be done. Some of our railway bridges are still in pathetic condition. They are very old and unable to carry speeding trains or even trains moving at an average speed. The Rajdhani and Shatabdi are high-speed trains in India, designed to travel at a speed of 160 kmph. But the quality of tracks is not good to bear such high speeds in India. Tracks consisting of wooden sleepers won’t work for these trains as these require tracks made up of pressure-resistant styrene or other durable synthetic materials. Every track, coach, engine, automated system must be in place, of quality and inspected as per pre-defined schedule and standard. We must understand that every life is precious.
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