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What is Causing Frequent Railway Accidents in India?

Indian trains were responsible for multiple fatalities in 2016. What is the cause behind them?

Published
India
3 min read
Passengers travel on an overcrowded train on the outskirts of New Delhi. (Photo: Reuters)

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?

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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.

(Photo: Akriti Paracer/<b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: Akriti Paracer/The Quint)

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.

(Photo: Akriti Paracer/<b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: Akriti Paracer/The Quint)

Track Maintenance

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.



(Photo: Akriti Paracer/<b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: Akriti Paracer/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.

(Photo: Akriti Paracer/<b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: Akriti Paracer/The Quint)
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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.

(Photo: Akriti Paracer/<b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: Akriti Paracer/The Quint)

Prevention Tactics

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.

(Photo: Akriti Paracer/<b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: Akriti Paracer/The Quint)

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.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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