Railway sets March 2019 deadline to replace fatigued tracks

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Railways has commenced a major drive to renew railway tracks in the wake of increasing incidents of train derailments. The ministry has invited global tenders for 7 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of additional railway tracks. This should be sufficient to renew/replace old railway tracks, a top official in the ministry told. “The government intends to renew/replace all railway tracks that are in bad shape, by March 2019,” the official said. At present, the ministry procures railway tracks from the state-run Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), which is the largest steel producer in the country.

Indian Railways has a total track length of about 1.15 lakh kilometres. Every year, tracks are required to be renewed. However, the last few years have seen the process of track renewal being hampered due to a funds crunch. At present, around 5,000 km of tracks need to be renewed, sources told this newspaper.

The official added that as much as 120 tonnes of rail are required to lay a 1 km-long track; subsequently, 7 lakh MT of rail will lead to the renewal of over 5,600 km long tracks all over the country.

The government has been facing a lot of criticism over the recent increase in the number of accidents due to derailments. The new Railway Minister, Piyush Goyal, soon after assuming charge, made it clear that there would not be any compromise on the safety of railway passengers.

Sources said that in the last 12 years, 72% of train accidents have taken place due to derailments. One of the major reasons behind derailments was the poor condition of railway tracks.

Sources said the government was committed to the safety of its people and would not refrain from spending on work related safety. A source said that Indian Railways would continue to procure rail from SAIL. “However, we will also go for global tenders since we have a shortage of rail,” he added. It has already been decided that the rails earmarked for the construction of new lines would be used for renewing tracks in accident-prone areas.