Sunday, March 4, 2012

Indian Railway, Part III – Accidents

Indian Railway, Part I – A Race to Bottom
Indian Railway, Part II – Where we are going?

Indian Railway, Part III –  Accidents
Indian Railway, Part IV - Will the Pheonix rise again?

Northeast Frontier Railway
In the list of world’s deadly train disasters our record is not so good. Out of the first 25 deadly (by death toll) accidents four are from India.

Bihar train disaster - 1981, 500-800 deaths.
Firozabad rail disaster - 1995, 358 deaths.
Gaisal train disaster - 1999, 285 deaths.
Khanna rail disaster - 1998, 212 deaths.

If we are considering the first 70 accidents, 7 more from India will find its place on the list.

Mardaiyar river bridge derail disaster, Tamil-Nadu - 1956, 154 deaths
Gyaneshwari Express train derailment - 2010, 148 deaths
Rafiganj train disaster -2002, 130+ deaths
Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, 1997- 120
Patna train derailed, Bihar 1937, 107
Ashtamudi Lake train disaster, Kerala - 1988, 107

Out of the 11 deadly accidents, six are happened after 1990s.

Accidents – Collisions, Unmanned Rail crossings

Accidents become a part of life in IR. Now-a-days we are used to see the pictures of train accidents in unmanned rail crossings, train derailments, collisions etc in newspapers. HLSRC Committee "has recommended total elimination of all level crossings (manned and unmanned) within 5 years at an estimated cost of Rs. 50,000 crores which will get recovered over 7-8 years due to saving in operation and maintenance costs and improved train operation". See the below picture for the number of casualties during 2006-07 to 2010-11.

But from where the money will come? In such a pathetic financial condition it will be difficult for railways to raise the funds internally, massive external debts – with IR's current policies – will severely affect the institution in the long term. Union government, which already started selling the family silver to raise money to cover the deficits, may not be in a position to invest so much for railways. So from where the money will come?

“About 1600 railway staff was killed and 8700 injured while working during the period from 2007 -08 to October, 2011 which is substantially more than 1019 deaths and 2118 injuries in train accidents for the period from 2007-08 to 2010-11”. Here we have to consider that a large chunk of 723 deaths and 690 injuries are due to unmanned level crossing accidents attributed to the negligence of road users. In total, 42% of total causalities and 32% of injuries involving railways were happened in unmanned Rail crossing contributing 59% to the total death tally.

Another important concern is collision. According to the reports from 2007-08 to 2010-11 "Collisions which are 5% of the total tally resulted in 24% deaths and 26% of injuries (25% total casualties). Numbers of collisions have varied from 13 during 2008-09 to 5 in 2010-11; whereas deaths and total casualties during the same years have been 9 & 62 during 2008-09 and 240 & 536 during 2010-11. This scenario of more deaths/casualties with fewer collisions during 2010-11 indicates the severity of collisions"

Ghosts of the past

There is a small river in the border of my native town. When I was a small kid we used the iron bridge built by British for crossing. Located on  NH 213, where the number of passengers and quantity of goods are increasing day by day, government decided to build a new bridge close to the old one. After some years, construction was completed and the new bridge became operational; but after some months (if not weeks) a part of the new bridge came down leaving a behind a hole in the middle. Traffic switched to old bridge. Government gave the contract for repairing the new one, after some months of hectic work new bridge became operational again.

This time it lasted for some more time, but eventually another hold was created on the bridge and traffic switched to the old one again. Well, government repaired the new bridge again and opened for traffic. Recently, two container Lorries with very heavy cargo came there and the authorities opened the old iron bridge for it!!!

IR also carries so many ghosts from the past, according to HLSRC report around 3000 bridges are 100 years or more old, out of that 32 are identified as distressed bridges. Kadalundi, a coastal village located close to the historical Calicut town (#11, #12) too had one such bridge - 140 years old - till July 2001. On that month ‘Mangalore-Chennai mail’ fell in to Kadalundi River killing 57 people.


For reading next part , please visit this space later


11. India train crash toll rises – BBC
12. Collapse of credibility – The Hindu

Picture Courtesy - Ministry of Railways, Government of India

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