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Derailments continue to push railway safety off track

Of the 3,137 railway accidents that occurred in the past 11 years,a staggering 1,970 (62.79 percent) were caused due to train derailments....

Written by Raghvendra Rao | New Delhi |
November 15, 2009 4:02:18 am

Of the 3,137 railway accidents that occurred in the past 11 years,a staggering 1,970 (62.79 percent) were caused due to train derailments,killing close to 540 persons including the seven killed in Saturday’s derailment of the 2462 Jodhpur-Delhi Mandor Superfast Express in Rajasthan. Over 2,050 persons have been injured in these derailments over the past decade.

Despite repeated claims of having improved its overall safety record,Indian Railways still finds itself grappling with the problem of bringing down the number of derailments that are happening all over its 63,273 km long network. Sources said the fact that close to 90,000 safety related posts are still lying vacant is the real reason why so many accidents are now being reported..

While Railway officials say that reasons for a derailment range from over-aged and worn out tracks to defects in the rolling stock to intentional damage to railway tracks,they do not deny that slackness on part of the ground staff or unavailability of ground staff as the probable reasons leading to derailments.

Data available with The Sunday Express shows that derailments continue to be single biggest cause of railway accidents on Indian Railways. The period between 1999-2001 witnessed as many as 679 derailments. The number of derailments may have steadily declined over the years (see box),but the railways appear far from finding a reliable solution to prevent trains running off tracks.

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The Mandor Express was travelling at a speed of 100 kmph when all the 15 coaches derailed. Some portion of the rails that pierced through the coaches is learnt to have caused all the deaths. Railways Ministry sources said the section where the accident took place had been placed under a temporary speed restriction from September 2 to 11 owing to some maintenance work. The speed restriction,however,had been withdrawn from September 12. While a rail fracture is being viewed as the prima facie cause of the accident,the correct picture will emerge after Commissioner of Railway Safety (Western Circle) Prashant Kumar completes the statutory inquiry.

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