Take stringent steps to stop train mishaps

Take stringent steps to stop train mishaps

The train collision in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh in which 12 people were killed and over 50 others were injured last week is only the latest in the continuing series of railway mishaps. The accident occurred when a speeding passenger train jumped signal and collided with another train which was taking a turn at a loop line. If this was the cause of the latest mishap, the reasons have varied from accident to accident. Sometimes it is derailment due to problems on the tracks. On other occasions, engine problems have caused mishaps. Bogies have caught fire because of the malfunctioning of electrical connections.

Trains have mowed down vehicles at rail crossings and killed people. Railway loco men’s association has stated that the shortage of drivers and the resulting work load on them is a reason for many accidents. While the specific reasons may vary, some common themes run through all of them – mechanical problems, human failure, negligence and mismanagement. In all these cases the railways are responsible for the loss of lives and assets, but the culture of owning up responsibility and acting on it has been missing in the organisation.  It has been pointed out that in the last over 60 years, not a single senior official has been held responsible for an accident. Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda has remarked that there is a need to review railway safety and security but he should implement it in practice.

Not a week passes without report of a train accident in some part of the country. Indian railways is the most accident-prone and hazardous in the world. The argument that the number of accidents is high because it also has a large network is disingenuous because the accident rate itself is higher than in most other countries. In a public transport system, safety and security of passengers should have the highest priority but it has regrettably taken a back seat in the Indian Railways. A CAG report has noted that the number of safety personnel is below the norms in all railway zones. There should not be any unmanned crossings. Signalling should be improved. There should be better upkeep and maintenance of tracks, equipment and rolling stock.

Though new trains are introduced every year, the necessary safety facilities and infrastructure are not put in place. This calls for greater investment, modernisation and internalisation of the importance of safety in all aspects of the railways’ operations. It is strange that the railways are planning huge investments on bullet trains when shortage of funds prevents it from introducing basic facilities to protect the lives of commuters in all its trains from the humble passenger trains to the prestigious Rajdhanis.

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