What is Causing Frequent Railway Accidents in India?
Indian trains were responsible for multiple fatalities in 2016. What is the cause behind them?
In 2017, the Hirakand Express derailed in Andhra Pradesh killing 40. In 2016, the Rajendranagar Patna Express derailed in Kanpur killing 150, and the Sealdah-Ajmer Express derailed in Kanpur, injuring 50.
On Wednesday, however, Mohammad Jamshed, a member of the Traffic Railway Board said the instances of accidents have reduced by 15-20 percent in India.
Yet, large scale accidents still happening in India. What is the reason behind these tragedies?
Conflicting Government Data
Derailment seems to be the most common cause for train accidents. However, reports of the Railway Ministry for 2015 and 2016 list a conflicting number of derailments in 2014.
So, the number of derailments that took place in 2015 are greater than those in 2014, according to the 2016 report.
While the reports list human error as the leading cause of these accidents, there is a conflict about the number of times the error resulted in tragedy.
Derailments are mainly caused by rail fractures. The 2016 Indore-Patna train tragedy was attributed to rail fractures by Kamlesh Gupta, a retd. Additional Member of Safety of the railway board, who spoke to The Quint.
Rail fractures are not very apparent as even with ultrasonic detection, only a few can be found.Kamlesh Gupta
He said that the rails develop a slight crack and after 6-7 trains pass over compromised tracks, it results in a sudden fracture.
In addition to this, because of corrosion, Gupta said some cracks will always be present due to stress from impact.
Other Reasons for Accidents
The coaches of the trains are not all new. Some of them have been made at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) and are infamous for piling up on collision. Stainless steel Linke Hoffman Busch (LHB) coaches are more efficient at shock absorption and can reduce incidents of derailment.
The Anil Kakodkar committee on railway safety has recommended switching to LHB, yet lack of funds prevents the step.
Coaches filled beyond capacity are also a hazard as any overloaded vehicle is severely susceptible to toppling over.
With different numbers quoted across yearly reports, the Railway Ministry has listed ways in which it is trying to reduce instances of derailment and other accidents.
While there’s no certainty on what is causing the rail accidents, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has found merit in allegations that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was behind the recent mishaps involving passenger trains.
Three people who had been arrested in the Ghorasahan case reportedly confessed to working with the ISI and its possible role in the derailment.
The men, Moti Paswan, Uma Shankar and Mukesh Yadav, were arrested from East Champaran district in Bihar. They claimed to have received Rs 3 lakh to plant IEDs at Ghorasahan railway station on 1 October last year.
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