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String of train derailments puts passengers at risk; Piyush Goyal orders quick replacement of old Railway tracks


Delhi: The spate of derailments over the past few weeks has raised concerns over the safety of railway operations in recent times.

On Thursday three trains jumped off the tracks and another derailment was averted in Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi and Maharashtra within a span of nine hours, the latest in a string of such incidents.

The first derailment occured at 6:25 am when seven coaches of the Jabalpur-bound Shaktipunj Express went off the tracks near the Obra Dam station in UP’s Sonbhadra district.

Within hours, at around 11:45 pm, the Ranchi-Delhi Rajdhani Express derailed near Minto bridge in the national capital, leaving one person injured. These were folowed by yet another derailment of a goods train in Maharashtra’s Khandala at 3:55 pm, railway officials said.

An accident was averted after locals spotted a fracture in a track between Farrukhabad and Fatehgarh in UP, minutes before the Kalindi Express was scheduled to pass the place, officials said in Farrukhabad.

Earlier, on August 20, 14 coaches of the high-speed Kalinga-Utkal Puri Haridwar Express had derailed in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district, killing at least 23 people and leaving scores injured. The train was on its way to Haridwar from Puri.

Three days later, nine coaches of the Delhi-bound Kaifiyat Express had derailed in the Auraiya district of Uttar Pradesh after it collided with a dumper, which had strayed on to the tracks, leaving around 100 passengers injured.

Ironically, Thursday’s mishaps occurred on a day Piyush Goyal, the new railway minister, chaired a high-level meeting with Railway Board officials to discuss ways for ensuring safe operation of trains.

Goyal directed the Railway Board to undertake immediate measures to address train derailments and eliminate all the Unmanned Level Crossings in a year`s time.

In the meeting, a comprehensive review of safety was undertaken and the Minister emphasised on setting the safety in train operation as top priority.

Unmanned Level Crossings and derailments due to defects in tracks were identified as two major causes leading to accidents.

According to an official statement, Goyal directed the officials to “ensure safety in train operations” and “eliminate all unmanned level crossings expeditiously on the entire Indian Railway network in a year`s time from now”.

“Track replacement or renewal should be accorded priority and the procurement of new rails should be expedited on a large scale with a view to completing construction of new lines in time,” the statement said, as per IANS.

“The Minister emphasised that the safety is paramount and there cannot and should not be any compromise on this front,” it added.

Directing to stop the manufacturing of conventional Integral Coach Factory-design coaches, Goyal said that only new Linke Hofmann Busch coaches should be manufactured.

He also asked for installation of anti-fog LED lights in Locomotives so that unhindered safe train operations can be ensured during winter season through fog.

According to the Standing Committee on Railways, which submitted its report on Safety and Security in Railways on December 14, 2016, a separate department solely entrusted with providing safety and security was imperative.

It had also observed that slow expansion of rail network had put undue burden on the existing infrastructure. This had led to severe congestion and safety compromises. Further, as per the committee, the unmanned level crossings (UMLCs) (or railway crossings) continued to be the biggest cause of maximum casualties in rail accidents, with 14,440 UMLCs in the railway network at that time.

It said that in 2014-15, about 40% of the accidents occurred at UMLCs. In 2015-16, it amounted to 28%.

It recommended that certain measures like Approaching Train Warning Systems and Train Actuated Warning Systems for giving audio-visual warning to road users about an approaching train.

To quote the data given by the committee – between 2003-04 and 2015-16, derailments were the second highest reason for casualties, with about 84% accidents happening due to derailments in 2015-16.

Defect in the track or rolling stock is said to be one of the main defects.

It noted that Linke Hoffman Busch (LHB) coaches (in case of derailments they do not witness higher casualties as the coaches do not pile upon each other) should be switched to.

To make matters worse, the committee was of the view that that more than half of the accidents are due to lapses on the part of the railway staff – like carelessness in working, poor maintenance work, non-observance of laid down safety rules and procedures and so on.

Accidents also happen due to signalling errors for which train-operators are responsible. They encounter a signal at every kilometre and have to constantly be on high alert. 

Source: Zee News