This refers to the editorial ‘Getting safety on track’ (FE, November 22). In 2012, the High Level Safety Review Committee headed by Anil Kakodkar came out with a stinging indictment of the “operational gaps posing safety risks”. In a 160-page report, the panel not only questioned the “quality of metallurgical and chemical solutions used in the steel being used for tracks” but also held the Research, Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) responsible for lack of technological innovation. It explicitly warned against introducing new trains without commensurate infrastructure, including maintenance of rail corridors. The panel was equally critical of the state of the ageing 3,000-plus rail bridges, which “are not monitored scientifically and are a perennial safety hazard each time a train passes over”. That the then railway minister Dinesh Trivedi acknowledged the need for “immediate corrective measures” to ensure operational and financial viability of the railways is laudable. But given the populist bent of most of his predecessors who have headed the department, the recommendations were not given due importance and the report turned out to be a tale of how the passengers have been surviving on sheer luck! Even with Suresh Prabhu now at the helm, the priority has been more towards introduction of on-board services like quality catering, hospitality services, access to WiFi and entertainment and less towards technological intervention to ensure safety of passengers. While the idea of bridging the gap between rail and air travel in terms of experience is welcome, such measures cannot be a substitute to structural and administrative reforms. It is time the government put an advanced signalling system based on continuous track circuiting and cab signalling in place to avoid mishaps due to collision and derailment.
Shreyans Jain, Delhi