Today, our new Minister for Railways, was chairing a meeting on how to improve the safety standards of the Indian Railways.
The Minister, unfortunately woke up to the news of derailment of 7 coaches of the Jabalpur bound Shaktipunj Express at Sonebhadra’s Obra Dam stretch. This incident happened at 6:25 am followed by two more.
The other incident of derailment happened in the National Capital, at the Minto Bridge, where the Delhi Rajdhani Express derailed at 11:45 AM, followed by derailment of a goods train at Khandala.
Another incident was averted at Farukkhabad when the Kalinidi was supposed to pass over the fractured tracks. The fracture was observed by locals who informed the officials.
The recent spat of derailment is followed by the derailment of Kaifiyat Express, which got derailed in Auraiya where 70 people got injured on 23rd of August, 2017 and derailment of Utkal Express at Muzaffarnagar, killing 23 passengers on the 18th of August 2017.
Looking at the decade old record of train mishaps, the numbers of train incidents though have gone down but the numbers of derailments have gone up. The extent of derailments has been gross which have not only injured scores of people but also taken approximately 193 lives in just 2016-2017(as put before the Parliament by the then Railways Minister, Suresh Prabhu).
The derailment saga dates back to the year when the BJP came to power in 2014, when Sawantvadi Passenger trained derailed following two more derailments in the year 2015, and 2016 also.
The Modi government has been sounding the bugles for high-speed trains, bullet trains and has also raised the speeds of Express trains to 110 KMPH, as they feel the tracks support the speed levels. Unfortunately the abuse of the Indian Railways has never been a concern either for the commuters or for the Railway administration.
The maintainance and upkeep of tracks has been kept on the back burner while the talk of upgradation has been doing rounds. While the basic cases of derailment have been attributed to poor maintenance of tracks and manual mode of track assessments, the railways has not kept note of the fact that the trains with an average load capacity of their authorised tonnage, often run at speeds with excessive load to their tonnage.
The wear and tear of tracks is not an easy task to be managed manually, which our Bullet Train thirsty Railway has been employing.
The upkeep of tracks has been one issue while the maintenance and upkeep of overused engines and bogies is another story to begin with.
Some engines and bogies have crossed their life span and have come back again with minimum replacements, this needs authentic data which the railways may not be willing to reveal.
The persistent losses posed by the Railways have been taken as a vote bank game, while the railways struggles to achieve the place of a killer now.
The railways adminstration ahs neglected the management and basic upgradation for many years and now there is nobody to blame.
Prabhu resigned owning up the responsibility for not being able to manage the railways, while Mr Goyal rises to a dented office.
The Modi administration must first focus on how to improve the existing infrastructure available and how to expand the connectivity to meet the rush of commuters while easing out the loads being carried by one train all by itself.
There is an urgent need of revamping the public carrier at the earliest and then move further with upgrades.
The Railways may have to grope in private players and foreign techmasters to fructify the ambitious rail revamp in India while pushing the upper middle classes to an affordable air travel.
We hope Mr Goyal taps the required resources and usher in the changes that the railways calls for.