New Delhi: After three derailments within less than two months, the Indian Railways has roped in international experts to fix its Kanpur-Lucknow stretch.
The Indian Railways has roped in international experts to fix its Kanpur-Lucknow stretch that has witnessed a clutch of train wrecks, even as police hinted on Tuesday that Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI may have instigated a November crash that claimed more than 150 lives.
Initial investigations have found damaged tracks that led to three derailments in less than two months in the same section. A six-member team of experts from South Korea began probing the incidents on Tuesday and will inspect the spot on Wednesday.
Last week, Japanese experts had conducted a similar inspection of the site where the Indore-Patna express train went off the rails on November 20. Railway experts from Italy will meet Indian Railways officials next month while the railway ministry is also in talks with French experts to carry out a probe.
“The South Korean delegation met top railway ministry officials where they were briefed about the facts related to the accident. Korean experts will carry out ultrasonic flaw detection test on the Kanpur-Lucknow section on Wednesday,” a senior railway ministry official told.
India’s extensive rail network runs 12,000 trains a day and the full-length track could circle the globe over one and a half times. More than 23 million passengers travel on it every day on journeys that extend from one end of the country to another. But the network has a poor safety record, with thousands of people dying in accidents every year, including in train derailments and collisions.
While initial probe by the railways have hinted sabotage, experts are also examining if the derailments were caused due to track fracture. The railway ministry has already sought a CBI inquiry into the crashes after an internal probe report said the fishplate was missing from the tracks at the site of the November 20 derailment.
“During track-patrolling, trackmen Sanjeev Kumar and Ramraj found 50 elastic rail clips and three pairs of fishplates removed from the railway track between Kalyanpur and Mandhana railway stations of Farrukhabad-Kanpur Anwarganj section. Many cuts by a hacksaw were also found on the track,” the report said.
The country recorded 27,581 railway deaths in 2014, the most recent year for which figures are available, with most victims falling from, or being struck by, moving trains.
Railway ministry will allocate Rs 2,000 crore for track maintenance and safety in the upcoming budget. An official said the railways plans to procure ultrasonic-flaw detection machines for minute scanning of the tracks. The machine, being used in countries such as Japan, Spain and China, employs ultrasonic waves to detect if there is any fracture or physical obstruction on the tracks.
The Indian Railways spends over Rs.55,000 crore annually on safety, but its share on track maintenance has been abysmally low. Sources said the organisation allocated merely Rs.60 crore for safety of tracks in 2012-13 and Rs 287 crore in the next fiscal year. In 2014-15, no money was earmarked for this purpose.
However, the Narendra Modi government increased the expenditure on track safety to Rs 1,200 crore in 2015-16 and Rs 1,508 crore in 2016-17. The railways has nearly 1.3 lakh kilometres of tracks across the country.