Eight trains derail in 2015: Modern infrastructure is alright, Mr Prabhu; what about passenger safety?

New Delhi, Ruchika Shah: At least two people have lost their lives, and eight others have been reported injured in the Mumbai-bound Duronto Express train accident on Saturday morning. The train derailed in Kalburgi, Karnataka in the wee hours of Saturday, September 12th.

Twin accidents in Madhya Pradesh

Nine compartments of the Duronto Express derailed at Martur village station, about 20 kilometres from Kalburgi between 2.15 am and 2.20 am, the Kalburgi Superintendent of Police Amit Singh said.

This is the second train accident in the first 12 days of September alone. On September 4, atleast 42 people were injured after six coaches of the Chennai-Mangalore Express derailed in Tiruchi area near Poovanaur district in Tamil Nadu. While the incident did not account for any casualties, atleast three people were seriously injured, and train services to Chennai Egmore from south Tamil Nadu were disrupted for several hours due to the accident.

August accounted for a shocking twin train accident in Madhya Pradesh, where Kamayani Express from Mumbai to Varanasi, and Mumbai-Jabalpur Janata Express – derailed at a gap of seven minutes, about 30 kilometres from Harda district in Madhya Pradesh. Six coaches of Kamayani Express and three coaches, including the engine of Janata Express derailed as the base material of the train tracks was washed away after a sudden flash floods. 29 people lost their lives in the accident, and the central railway had cancelled 57 trains, while Western railways had cancelled 22 trains till the tracks were restored.

A top railway officer had later said that “Regular monsoon patroling was not being done between Khirki and Bhirangi section as the officials did not find it vulnerable to accidents in rainy season going by the past history.”

ALSO READ: Madhya Pradesh train tragedy: Railways skipped monsoon patrolling at mishap spot?

8 trains have derailed in 2015
Feb 13: 12677 Bangalore – Ernakulam Intercity Express derailed near Anekal at 7.35 am. 12 people lost their lives and and 100 were reported injured.

Mar 1: 12617 Ernakulam – Hazrat Nizamuddin Mangala Lakshadweep Express derails near Pen station, Maharashtra; no one is injured.
March 20: Dehradun-Varanasi Janta Express derails in UP’s Rae Bareli. 39 people lost their lives, and 150 were reported injured.
May 25: Muri Express derails in UP leaving four dead and over 50 persons injured.
Aug 4: 11071 Mumbai Varanasi Kamayani Express details, bogies fall into Machak river after flash floods caused the tracks to misalign. ​
Aug 4: Mumbai-Jabalpur Janata Express derailed at the same spot after seven minutes. The twin accidents killed 29 people, and left 100s injured.
Sep 4: Chennai-Mangalore express detailed in Tiruchi area, injuring 42, including fatally injuring 3 persons.
Sep 12: Mumbai-bound Duronto Express derails in Kalburgi, Karnataka, leaving two persons dead and eight injured.
The year 2015 has seen eight train accidents due to derailment. Nearly 190 people have lost their lives in these accidents this year alone, with hundreds others injured, and thousands others displaced due to disrupted services and diverted trains.

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has laid out an ambitious budget plan for the Indian Railways, calling for an investment of Rs 1 trillion in this financial year, and Rs 8.5 trillion over the next five years, from both, public and private companies, and from foreign investors.In June, Prabhu, while comparing the Indian and Chinese railway network, had said that there hasn’t been enough investment in railways in the last forty years.

Prabhu also expects nearly Rs 9.28 lakh crore ($140 billion) investment from Japan to modernize railway stations.

The first aforementioned investment has been earmarked for easing railway traffic — Prabhu says that most railway lines are running at 100% capacity, leading to heavy congestion. He said that laying a one kilometre rail link will cost Rs 10 crore, and doubling or tripling of an existing railhead will cost Rs 6 crore.

Apart from this, Japan will be helping India modernize 400 railway stations by participating in the Indian Railways’ Rs 9.28 lakh crore ($140 billion) investment over the next five years. Prabhu had met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Ab, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, among other ministers and senior officials.

While there is a need to set up new rail lines to reduce congestion, and an even more dire need for modernizing our railways stations, maintaining existing railway lines and tracks, and an upkeep of the existing infrastructure cannot be ignored. Doing so has already proved to be fatal.

India has the one of the world’s largest railway networks in the world, in terms of length. Keeping this in mind, it is easy to guesstimate the magnitude of investment that will be required to maintain and upkeep the existing railway lines so that such accidents can be avoided going ahead. There is an immediate need for the ministry to focus on this.