With its ambitious track renewal programme going ahead full steam and more unmanned level crossings being eliminated, data from Indian Railways shows a decline in train accidents. The data, prepared by the Safety Directorate, reveals that the railways witnessed 41 derailments in the period April 1, 2017, to January 15, 2018, down from 69 between April 1, 2016 and January 15, 2017. Accidents at level crossing in the same period was down from 16 to 10. “Replacement of old tracks with new ones is the priority, and it is showing results now,” said a senior Railway Ministry official involved with the safety measures. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, after taking over last year, has prioratised track renewal and has instructed all concerned officials to go ahead without any compromise.
In fact, track renewal has caused route diversions of many trains, affecting punctuality. This has, however, not derailed the “massive, ongoing renewal work” across the country, the official said. “It is better late than never. For us, passengers’ lives are most important, so a bit of delay in the running of the trains… that is something we have to adjust to for the sake of safety enhancement,” said the official. Railways has accorded the highest priority to safety, with the total expenditure planned in fiscal 2018-19 on safety activities at Rs 73,065 crore. Besides track renewal, provisions for complete elimination of level crossings, signal automation and induction of modern train controlling systems are part of the safety measures incorporated in the budget for 2018-19.
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The Railways had undertaken track renewal work for 3,600 km in 2017-18 and has set a target of replacing 3,900 km of tracks in 2018-19. Unmanned railway crossings account for around 40 per cent of accidents involving trains. While there are about 18,000 manned level crossings, there are an estimated 7,000 unmanned crossings. While the Railways had eliminated about 3,000 unmanned level crossings in the last three years, it has set target of eliminating 4,267 unmanned crossings in 2018-19.
Till the time unmanned crossing are eliminated, the Railways is in the process of introducing a hooter system based on space technology at these vulnerable accident spots. The satellite-based system will alert road users at unmanned level crossings about approaching trains. Once all unmanned level crossings are eliminated, the hooter system would be shifted to manned level crossings, as per the plan. “All possible steps are being undertaken on a continual basis to prevent accidents and to enhance safety,” the official said, adding that regular safety inspections are being conducted to keep the system in alert mode.
Adoption of suitable technologies for upgradation and maintenance of tracks, coaches, signalling and interlocking systems, use of Ultrasonic Flaw Detection of rails and welds, and preventive and predictive maintenance of the rail assets are some of the measures being undertaken to ensure safe train operations.