Utkal Express Derailment: Why Suresh Prabhu Should Speed Up Railways’ Track Renewal, Investments

Utkal Express Derailment: Why Suresh Prabhu Should Speed Up Railways’ Track Renewal, Investments

Do we need bullet trains or just safer trains, even if they run slower? Saturday’s horrific accident which claimed over 20 lives and injured scores of others as the Puri-Haridwar-Kalinga Utkal Express derailed near Muzaffarnagar has again brought into focus the safety record of the Railways. And the painful truth is this: the Railways has little to spend on annual track renewal, an activity which keeps tracks healthy and could prevent frequent derailments. Besides this, glaring shortage of safety personals across functions while in a majority of train accidents, negligence of Railway staff has been the primary reason.

Let us look at each of these problems. First, derailment. Derailments account for a bulk of train accidents in India. And from the data made available publicly till 2015-16, the Railways was spending inadequately on track renewal, thereby possibly putting hundreds of lives at risk.

Data provided by the Railways Ministry in Rajya Sabha earlier this month show derailments accounted for 81 percent of casualties in train accidents last fiscal, up sharply from just about 30 percent in 2015-16. It is obvious then that derailment is the Indian Railways’ biggest safety headache after deaths on unmanned level crossings, India Todayreport said. After the Utkal Express tragedy, media reports indicated that 346 accidents have happened since Minister Suresh Prabhu took over Railways, quoting sources, but this has not been independently confirmed. But it is still pertinent to find out why do trains derail this frequently in India? According to a white paper of the Railways published two years back, financial constraints hinder annual track renewal. Put simply, this means there is not enough money going around for planned track renewal and this could be the one big reason passengers’ lives are at risk during train journeys. Read More…

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