In the backdrop of two derailments near Kanpur in less than two months, the Railways has decided to procure the latest technology on a “war footing” to ensure passenger safety and reduce dependence on manual systems. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Monday described the two incidents of derailments, which have raised serious question about railway’s safety mechanism, as “very sad”.
“I am very angry about the derailments. We have to bring down such cases. For that, safety inspections have to be more vigorous. We have to procure modern equipment for safety inspection on a war footing to avoid manual exercise,” he said. As per the decision, the railways will procure modern equipment for faster detection of fracture on rail tracks. Besides, experts from Japan and Korea would examine the existing safety mechanism and suggest ways to strengthen it. Prabhu said all railway officers have been instructed to involve in inspection on a regular basis. PSUs under railways, like IRCON, RITES and RVNK would also be involved in checking safety parameters and suggest measures to repair loopholes, if any.
About the status of special railway safety fund, he said, “There will be no dearth of funds for safety works. We have written to the finance ministry for the special fund and the minister has agreed in principle for it. We were also assured of more safety funds this time.” Fifteen coaches of Sealdah-Ajmer Express derailed in Kanpur Rural district on December 28, killing at least 62 passengers, while on November 20 over 150 people were killed and more than 200 injured when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express derailed in the same district.
While the final report about the November 20 mishap is yet to be submitted, initial report had suggested rail fracture as possible reason for it. Speaking about train fares, Prabhu said, “Earlier there was no competition for railways. But now situation has changed. Budget airlines are directly competing with our premier service.” Asked about the proposed Rail Development Authority, he said it will go to the Cabinet shortly. However, the RDA will have two more components beside, fare fixation. It will examine PPP projects to give a fair play for private players and also ensure that the efficiency of Railways increases, Prabhu said.