India’s death toll from train derailments in 2016-17 is now the highest in a decade. 193 People died in these accidents despite a sharp dip in trains mishaps- fewest in 10 years (104) ending March 2017; 78 of these accidents were derailments. On 23 August, 2017, a train derailment brought in more flak for the Railways. At least 70 people were injured when nine coaches of the Delhi-bound Kaifiyat Express derailed in Auraiya, Uttar Pradesh. The train, travelling from Azamgarh to Delhi, collided with a dumper around 3am between Pata and Achalda railway stations, a North Central Railway spokesperson said. Earlier this month, Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express, derailed near Muzaffarnagar on 18th August killing 23 passengers and injuring over 60. After two major train accidents in a week, Suresh Prabhu, the Minister for Railways, offered to resign from his post.
While the number of train accidents has significantly reduced in the last 10 years, derailments have gone up. The proportion of derailments in the total accidents was 75%in 2016-17, the highest in 10 years. These incidents have brought the focuss on flaws within the Indian Railways as reports reveal train derailment leading the cause of major train accidents in last decade in India. These incidents have brought the focus on safety issues Indian Railways has been grappling with. Reports suggest train derailment is the primary cause for major trains accidents in the in last decade in India.
Loss of Life
The unfortunate derailment of Utkal express in Muzzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh) claimed more than 20 lives and left scores of others injured. But, how many people are killed in train accidents each year? On 11th August 2017, a BJP Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, asked Railway Minister to provide details of the of train accidents in the last two years and the loss of lives in these mishaps. The government informed the house that 122 persons were killed in train accidents in 2015-16 and 238 persons were killed in 2016-17.
Train Accidents in Last 5 Years
Nearly 53 percent of the 586 train accidents in the last five years were due to derailments with the Utkal Express derailment being the latest. The worst accident was the November 20, 2016 derailment of the Indore-Patna Express+ near Kanpur which resulted in 150 deaths and over 150 injuries
Reason for Derailments
Derailments are mainly caused by rail fractures. The 2016 Indore-Patna train tragedy was attributed to rail fractures Most of the coaches of the trains are also old. On April 3, 2017, India Spend reported that track failures and subsequent derailments are caused by twin factors–excessive – traffic and underinvestment in rail infrastructure.
Last Ten Years - a chronology
August 19, 2017: At least 20 people were killed and 92 injured when 14 coaches of the Kalinga Utkal Express derailed in Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh.
January 21, 2017: 29 people were killed and 50 others injured when the Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express derailed in Andhra Pradesh's Vizianagaram district.
December 28, 2016: Two passengers were killed and over 65 injured when 15 coaches of Sealdah-Ajmer Express derailed near Rura, 50 km from Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh.
November 20, 2016: 149 people were killed and over 300 injured when 14 coaches of Patna-Indore Express derailed near Pukhrayan station, close to Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh.
August 4, 2015: 25 people were killed and 25 others injured as bogies of Mumbai-Varanasi Kamayani Express derailed and fell into Machak river in Harda district of Madhya Pradesh. Minutes later, the Janata Express also derailed at the same spot.
March 20, 2015: 39 people were killed and 150 injured as Dehradun-Varanasi Janata Express derailed in Uttar Pradesh's Rae Bareli.
May 4, 2014: 20 passengers died and 100 others were injured as Diva Junction-Sawantvadi passenger train derailed between Nagothane and Roha stations in Raigad district of Maharashtra.
May 26, 2014: 25 people were killed and over 50 others injured when Gorakhpur-bound Gorakhdham Express rammed into a stationary goods train near Khalilabad station in Sant Kabir Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh.
July 10, 2011: 70 people were killed and hundreds injured when 15 coaches of the Delhi-bound Kalka Mail derailed in Fatehpur district of Uttar Pradesh.
May 28, 2010: 148 passengers were killed when the Gyaneshwari Express was derailed by Maoists in West Midnapore district of West Bengal.
How to Prevent Train Accidents
- Never walk on or along railroad tracks—trespassing is illegal!
- Always look out for warning signs and signals.
- Always assume there is a train coming, as trains can run on any track at any time.
- Be aware that trains cannot stop quickly. The average freight train traveling 55 miles per hour takes a mile or more to stop.
- Only cross tracks at designated crossing areas, and always look both ways before crossing.
- Never try to beat a train across the tracks. There is no reason to risk your life for a few extra minutes.
- If you’re in a vehicle, don’t stop on the tracks. Before you cross, make sure there is enough room for your vehicle on the other side. There should be at least 15 feet between the end of your vehicle and the tracks.
- If your vehicle stalls on a crossing, get everyone out immediately. Stand far away from the tracks, even if you don’t see a train. Then call the emergency notification number posted on or near the crossing, or call local law enforcement.
- Be aware that some vehicles, like school buses, commercial buses and trucks carrying hazardous materials, must always come to a full stop at railroad crossings. (State laws vary.)
- It might look easy and fun in the movies, but it is extremely dangerous to attempt to jump on board a moving train. A minor slip could lead to a lost limb or even death.
Gunjan Mittal Roy