Derailments rise but Safety Reports gather Dust

Parliamentary panel pulls up Railways for lack of urgency on track renewal, safety measures

New Delhi: The Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) is yet to submit the preliminary finding report of the Patna-bound Indore-Rajendranagar Express derailment that took place two months back in November in which at least 146 people lost their lives.

A Railway Ministry official said the CRS, under administrative control of the Civil Aviation Ministry, hasn’t submitted its report yet as the sabotage angle is being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

The delay in submitting the report assumes significance as yet another derailment on Saturday of the Hirakhand Express in Andhra Pradesh has claimed the lives of 39 persons with over 50 injured.

No action yet

The Railways was recently rapped by a Parliamentary panel for failing to establish the causes behind rising derailment cases this year.

According to a Railway Board official, there were 68 derailments till December 2016, compared to 65 in the previous year — a six-year high. Derailments happen due to fault in either railway tracks or the rolling stock.

The Standing Committee on Railways in its recent ‘Safety and Security in Railways’ report said the Railways has failed in maintaining safety standards of the rail tracks. “…track forms the backbone of the rail transportation system and therefore, needs to be maintained in a safe and fit condition. However, in the instant case there seems to be total failure in regard to maintaining the safety standards of their tracks,” the Standing Committee had said in its report tabled in Lok Sabha on December 14.

It said that ideally 4,500 kilometres of the rail tracks should have been renewed annually out of the total track length of 1,14,907 kms. However, out of 5,000 km track length due for renewal at present, only 2,700 km track was targeted to be renewed by the Railways.

Human error unchecked

The Standing Committee also criticised the Railways for failing to address the human error involved in rail accidents. Around 70 % of the rail accidents in 2015-16 occurred due to the fault of railway staff such as poor maintenance, non-adherence to safety rules and adopting short-cuts, according to official reports.

“Looking at the huge number of rail accidents due to lapse of the railway staff, the Committee derive that the (Railway) Ministry have failed to assess the root cause of continuous and possibly repeated lapses by railway staff and therefore have failed completely to curb such accidents,” the Committee said.