The Indian Railway is the third largest network in the world carrying 18 million people to their destinations each day. More than 16,000 trains run on Railway tracks each day. But sadly, The Report of High Level Safety Review Committee of 2012 states that from 2007–08 to October 2011 railway accidents took 1019 lives and injured 2118 in India. It also killed 1600 railway staff and injured 8700 people. Unlawful trespassing kills about 15,000 persons each year as per the report. Fire, collision, derailments and unmanned railway crossings are major reasons for the rail accidents.
Indian Railways lack funds for investment. Accident rate is near about 300 accidents each year which is very high and need immediate attention. Though incidents of derailment and collision have reduced to a great extent but human error and fire are still posing a problem.
Major reasons leading to rail accidents in India
Low investment – For the past 20-23 years, the Indian Railways 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.
Most of the Indian trains are not equipped with fire detection systems. Sometimes smoke and fire detection systems are installed in AC coaches but not in the other compartments of the same train. Detecting fire in the open coaches is more problematic.
In some nations devices to automatically stop the train if it crosses red signal are in place. These avert head on collisions to a great extent. But no such devices are provided in Indian Railways leading to certain avoidable collisions.
Human errors – The Indian Railways lacks new technologies, therefore chances of human error are more and it is one of the major causes of rail accidents in India. Though nothing can be fool proof with technology but it certainly reduces the chances of accidents. It has been found out by CNN-IBN after assessing the internal safety report of the Railways. 18 out of every 21 accidents occur because of human error. It has also been found out that most of the time organizations compromise on the safety measures. Reasons why safety measures are compromised are low investment, delay in installing anti-collision devices and shortage in manpower.
Shortage of staff is another major reason leading to human errors. Less staff means work overload. In India, train accidents also occur because of the fault of driver and negligence of railway staff.
Manual signaling system between stations must be replaced with automated one. Again this needs a huge investment, maintenance and management.
Unmanned crossings – 15,000 crossings out of 50,000 in India are unmanned. Road users do not take proper precautions and cross lines even if the signal is red, leading to accident. Overpass bridges, flyovers and fencing are done to reduce the accidents.
Major Train Accidents in India
November 20, 2016 – Over 124 people were killed and 260 injured after Indore-Rajendra Nagar Express 19321 derailed.
February 5, 2016 – Four coaches of Kanyakumari-Bangalore City Express fell off track and injured a few.
May 25, 2015 – Muri Express derailed and killed four people and injured 50.
March 20, 2015 – Dehradun-Varanasi Janta Express derailed and killed 58 people and injured 150.
February 13, 2015 – Bangalore City-Ernakulam Intercity Express 12677 derailed in which 12 people lost their lives and more than 100 were injured.
June 25, 2014 – Dibrugarh-Rajdhani Express 12236 derailed near Chapra town of Bihar, killing four and injuring eight.
May 26, 2014 – Gorakhpur bound Gorakhdham Express 12556 hit a stationery goods train near Khalilabad station in Sant Kabir Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh. Around 25 people were killed in the accident and more than 50 were injured.
May 4, 2014 – Diva Junction-Sawantvadi Passenger train 50105 derailed between Nagothane and Roha stations killing near about 20 passengers and injuring 100 others.
March 20, 2014 – Six coaches of a local train at Titwala station got uncoupled from the rest of the train. It derailed and killed an 18-year-old student and nine others.
December 28, 2013 – More than 24 people were killed when Nanded-Bangalore express train near Kothacheru railway station in Anantapur district caught fire.
November 27, 2013 – 26 people were killed and 13 injured when an air-conditioned coach of the Bangalore-Nanded Express train caught fire.
August 19, 2013 – Rajya Rani Express ran over 35 people at the Dhamara station near Saharsa in Bihar.
June 30, 2012 – A coach of the Delhi-Chennai Tamil Nadu Express caught fire, killing 35 passengers and injuring 25 others.
July 10, 2011 – 71 people were killed by the derailing of Kalka mail at Malwa station.
July 19, 2010 – 66 people were killed when Uttar Banga Express hit Vananchal Express from behind at Sainthia station.
May 28, 2010 – Naxals derailed Jyaneshwari Express; the accident killed around 148 people.
June 22, 2003 – In a first major accident, 53 people were killed and 25 were injured when the Karwar-Mumbai Central Holiday Special’s three coaches and engine got derailed near Vaibhavwadi station in Maharashtra.
Many a time such accidents occur on bridges during rainy season. The reason is irregular inspection of bridges and tracks. Moreover, some of the bridges 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.