Safety in Indian Railways
The derailment of the Indore-Patna Express in Kanpur Dehat, with the death toll over 140 people.
INDIAN RAILWAYS, the premier transport organization of the country is the largest rail network in Asia and the world’s second largest under one management.
- About seven billion passenger trips a year via indian railways.
- an average of 50 derailments a year over the past four years
- In the 6-year period between 2009-10 and 2014-15, there were a total of 803 accidents in Indian Railways killing 620 people
- 47% of the accidents were due to derailment of trains.
- Indian Railways maintains 115,000 km of track around the country
Causes of Railway Accidents-
- Derailment – 30% due to Track defects
- Level crossing accidents
- Fire in train
- Human failure by railway staff or others
- Equipment failure
- Overcrowding in trains
- In the recent accident one of the reason for such high casualty is it ran on Integrated Coach Factory (ICF) coaches, instead of the more modern Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches that make up premium trains such as the Rajdhani and Shatabdi , LHB coaches do not pile up during accidents .
- Outdated infrastructure, slow speeds, safety and management issues
- Announcing new trains on overburdened routes .
- Indian railways is yet to introduce safety technologies in trains like the train protection and warning system (TPWS), Train collision avoidance system (TCAS) and automatic fire and smoke detection system even as they are under trial for the last several years.
- Poor track maintenance including lack of proper fittings and ballast on the rail lines causing fractures
- Low usage of ultrasonic flaw detection devices which perform data logging, saving and transferring scan to computers. That help in improving the quality of rails and welds on tracks.
- Lack of funds is ailing the railway department as trains run on very low fares.
Sam Pitroda Committee , suggested an ambitious 8 lakh crore modernisation programme for the railways. Suggested modernisation of existing tracks, strengthening of bridges to take high load high speed trains , LhB coaches etc
Kakodkar Committee Report , 2012 – Tasked to come up with ways to make railways accident-free
- Suggested overhauling of indian railways , with cost upto 1 lakh crore , time limit 5 years .
- It suggested no announcements of new trains , railway fare hike and railway cess .
- Proposed to completely replace ICF coaches with LHB coaches costing Rs10,000 crore in next 5 years.
- It suggested adoption of an Advanced Signalling System (like the European Train Control System) costing Rs 20,000 crore
- It suggested that both manned and unmanned level crossings should be totally eliminated at a cost Rs 50,000 crore
- Asked to take non-populistic measures.
- The report concluded that the passengers were surviving on sheer luck and the network was on the brink of collapse. And no civil society could accept such massacre on tracks.
- Committee pointed out that 43000 unsafe coaches are deployed in railways which can not bear speed above 80 kmph. It found that fire extinguishers were “rudimentary and insufficient.”
- It observed that in the Railways there is no practice of independent safety regulation. The Railway Board was “rule maker, operator and regulator, all wrapped in one.” It suggested constitution of an independent Railway Safety regulator.
- The commissioners of railway safety should be the watchdogs but they have negligible role at the operational level. Being employees, they are overruled by the Board.
- Kakodkar Committee said the Railways suffered from an “implementation bug.” They have been installing anti-collision devices for more than a decade.
Bibek Debroy Committee also recommended setting up Railway Regulatory Authority of India (RRAI) as an independent regulatory body.
What should be done
- Adhere to the recommendations of Kakodkar panel report.
- There should be proper enquiry after each accident and guilty should be punished. The ambiguous nature of railway accidents , one department blaming the other leaves whole investigation running behind the trails with no ends.
- Producing more LHB coaches compared to ICF coaches.Currently, around 55,000 ICF coaches of varying ages are in circulation while the number of LHB coaches is just about 5,000-8,000. Intense lobbying by the industry involved in producing ICF coaches is helping them thrive in the market.
- Integrated planning of maintenance schedules should be adopted , at present it is done by different departments such as civil engineering, signal and telecom and electrical at different times
- An independent statutory safety authority should be constituted to look into matters of rail safety.
- It is good that in present year’s railway budget no new train was announced , but more non populists measures like increasing the fare to fund faster transformation of railways should be done.
- There should be a tab on number of passengers allowed in a train , overcrowding leads to deterioration of resources employed .