21September2018

Andaman Chronicle

The Daily Diary of the Islands

Railways need to boost safety measures

When two local trains, one Borivli bound and another approaching Churchate collided between Jogeshwari and Andheri station last year, it was reportedly caused by ‘brake failure’.  That they should not have been on the same track approaching each other was simply not discussed.

 

The incident that occurred at about 11 pm caused derailment and although there were no casualties, around 10 people were reportedly injured. A little while earlier, another train accident made headlines. This time, it was a lot more serious than the collision between the Western locals. In this incident, 70 passengers were gravely injured after a Vidarbha Express collided head on with a local train coming from Kasara between Umbermali and Kasaraghat at 9.30 pm. While coaches of both the trains were derailed, owing to the impact, the S-10 coach of Vidarbha Express was pushed right atop the S-9 coach.

Incidentally, the driver of the Vidarbha Express saw a local train on the same track near the KasaraGhat. Although he applied the emergency brake immediately, he could not avert the collision. Two people were reported dead in the accident.

The two accidents brought into sharp focus the stark lack of safety measures in trains all over the country - locals or otherwise. An RTI query filed by activist Om Prakash Sharma revealed that the number of those killed due to train mishaps was the highest during the period 2010-11 with 374 registered deaths. In all, 208 people were killed in rail mishaps in 2006-07, 191 in 2007-08, 209 in 2008-09 and 238 in 2009-10. Out of the 374 death in 2011 due to train mishaps, 239 deaths, around 64 per cent of the total, was due to train collisions.

The rail authority’s apathy towards commuters and utter disregard for their safety is evidence by the surge in accidents that occur with alarming periodicity across the nation. According to a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report produced in May this year, the railways have been surrendering railway safety funds. The report said that there has been “huge surrender of funds, thus, indicating low priority being accorded to safety works.”

Since its inception in the year 2002, the funds have barely been utilised. The CAG audit studied the implementation of policy with respect to safety works from 2006-07 to 2010-2011. During the period, the railway department not only made less budgetary allotment from the funds available with the RSF, but also surrendered a major part of it that was allotted in the budget.

According to the study, there was gross under-utilisation of funds from Railway Safety Fund (RSF) since its inception in April 2002. During 2006-07 to 2010-11, budget allotment was less than 45 per cent of available funds, while in 60 per cent of works, 80 per cent of the fund allotted were surrendered, read the CAG report.

Owing to this attitude towards commuter safety, there are 1,490 unmanned level crossings either registering high road-rail traffic or along Rajdhani routes. Safety enhancement devices such as lifting barriers, interlocking and telephones were not provided to eligible cases.

Road overbridges and road underbridges, are yet to be sanctioned for many eligible level crossings. The report revealed many of the bridges that were sanctioned decades back were yet to see the light of the day. Incidentally, the RSF is financed through receipts of Central Road Fund collected from levy of cess of Re 1 per litre on diesel and petrol.Another CAG report also said that that railway is yet to come up with a full-proof anti-collision device to prevent train mishaps.

Apparently, it was reported that CR general manager Subodh Jain had made a statement about the Kasara collision saying that “automatic system (anti-collision device) wouldn’t have been effective even in the slim time-lag and manual intervention was the best possible action.”

Around the same time the KasaraGhat accident took place in Maharashtra, a goods train was derailed in Bihar. Twenty-six wagons of the train derailed near Bhabua station in Bihar's Kaimur district early morning disrupted the movement of around 70 trains in the Howrah-New Delhi route.

It brought services in the Gaya-Mughalsarai section of the East Central Railway (ECR) to a complete halt. At least six trains to and from the capital were cancelled while over 16 others diverted.

All the three incidents that happened within the span of two months and majorly disrupted other services for hours/days only underlines the need for railway safety measures to be increased nationwide.

(Readers keen on seeking help on drafting RTI applications may write in to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call Gajanan Khergamker on 022-22841593 for any assistance on RTI or to have their findings / issue featured here)