Bansal plays safe in wake of Kumbh stampede

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 27 2013, 08:55am hrs
With the Allahabad railway station stampede during the Maha Kumbh which killed at least 36 pilgrims still fresh in public memory, enhancing safety was understandably the thrust area in the Railway Budget 2013-14. Admitting that the incident had shaken his ministry, rail minister PK Bansal promised to work towards a zero accident situation.

He said: ...we would strive to build in a higher level of contingency margin in our future planning. However, Bansal noted that though the volume of passenger and freight traffic has increased, the number of consequential train accidents per million train km has fallen from 0.41 in 2003-04 to 0.13 at the end of 2011-12.

To give a long-term perspective and focused attention for enhancing safety, the minister proposed an exercise of making a Corporate Safety Plan for a 10-year period (2014-24). Expressing concern over accidents at level crossings (LC), Bansal said 40% of consequential accidents and 60% of fatalities were accounted for by LCs. He said a permanent solution to this problem was to eliminate the LCs.

Lamenting that the Railway Safety Fund set up to finance safety works at LCs was proving inadequate, he said meeting the estimated requirement of R37,000 crore at present-day cost to eliminate 31,846 LCs would only be possible with enhanced support from Central Road Fund. The allocation for Railway Safety Fund remains unchanged from last year at R2,000 crore.