Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

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288 people were killed and nearly 800 injured in a horrific accident in Odisha’s Balasore district.

New Delhi:
The three-train collision in Odisha that killed over 280 people has raised several questions about the preparedness of the railways as it undergoes a 2.4-trillion-rupee transformation with gleaming new trains and modern stations.

Here are the top 10 updates on this big story:

  1. The Friday’s crash, the country’s deadliest rail accident in more than 20 years, has come as a jolt to railways’ plan for a makeover, experts say. “The safety record has been improving over the years but there is more work to do,” Prakash Kumar Sen, head of the department of mechanical engineering at Kirodimal Institute of Technology in Chhattisgarh, says, according to news agency Reuters.

  2. The railways have been introducing more and more trains to cope with soaring demand but the workforce to maintain them are not trained adequately or their workload is too high, railway experts say.

  3. The east coast route on which the three-train collision occurred, is one of the country’s oldest and busiest, as it also carries much of India’s coal and oil freight, Mr Sen said. “These tracks are very old … the load on them is very high, if maintenance is not good, failures will happen,” Mr Sen, who is also the lead author of a 2020 study on “Causes of Rail Derailment in India and Corrective Measures”, adds.

  4. Srinand Jha, an independent transport expert and author at the International Railway Journal, says the railways have been slow to install safety mechanisms such as anti-collision devices and emergency warning systems across the network. “They will always tell you that accidents are at a very manageable level because they talk about them in terms of percentages,” he says. Anti-collision system “Kavach” was not available on the route involved in Friday’s accident.

  5. Indian Railways maintains that safety has always been a key focus. Pointing to its low accident rate over the years, a railways ministry spokesperson says: “This question (on safety) is arising because there has been one incident now. But if you see the data, you will see that there have been no major accidents for years”.

  6. The number of accidents per million train kilometres, a gauge of safety, had fallen to 0.03 in fiscal 2021-22 from 0.10 in 2013-14, the spokesperson adds.

  7. Long-considered the lifeline for Indians, the 170-year-old system has seen rapid expansion and modernisation under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push to boost infrastructure and connectivity in the fast-growing economy.

  8. A Rs 1-trillion, five-year safety fund created in 2017-18 has been extended for five years from 2022-23, with a further Rs 450 billion of funding, after the first plan led to an “overall improvement in safety indicators”, according to the Railways.

  9. The Indian Railways runs the fourth largest train network in the world. It transports 13 million people every day and moved nearly 1.5 billion tonnes of freight in 2022. This year, the government made a record Rs 2.4-trillion-rupee capital outlay for the railways, a 50% increase over the previous fiscal year, to upgrade tracks, ease congestion and add new trains.

  10. Friday’s train accident in Odisha’s Balasore ranks as India’s third worst, and the deadliest accident since 1995, when two express trains collided in Firozabad, near Agra, killing more than 300 people.

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