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बेसिक इंग्लिश का दूसरा सत्र (कक्षा प्रारंभ : 22 अक्तूबर, शाम 3:30 से 5:30)
Issues and Challenges for Rail safety
Aug 24, 2017

[GS Paper III: (Infrastructure – Railways, Disaster and Disaster Management)]

Why in News?

  • On August 22, coaches of the Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express derailed near Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh) killing 23 people.
  • Three days after the Utkal Express derailed, 12 coaches of the Kaifiyat Express came off the track as the train hit a dumper in Auraiya district.
  • These recent accidents prima facie appear to have occurred due to negligence of the railway staff.

Reasons behind such accidents

  • Negligence - Since 2012, six out of every 10 rail accidents in India have happened because of the mistake or the negligence of railway staff, according to a study by NITI Aayog.
  • Poor Designing - According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures for 2015, 859 railway accidents occurred due to mechanical defects such as poor design and track faults.
  • Derailment - Derailments are mainly caused by rail fractures including manufacturing/installation defects, extreme weather causing tension on tracks. The 2016 Indore-Patna train tragedy was attributed to rail fractures.
  • Under-investment in Rail Safety - A report by the Standing Committee on Railways on safety and security in December 2016 identified under-investment in Railways as one of the reasons for more rail accidents. 
  • Increased traffic -The report stated that while passenger and freight traffic has increased by 1,344 % and 1,642 % respectively from 1950 to 2016, the Railways' route kilometres have increased by only 23%.

Measures to avoid such accidents

  • Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS): It is a radio communication based system aims at providing capability of preventing train accidents caused due to Signal Passing at Danger (SPAD) or non observance of speed restrictions by train drivers.
  • Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS): It is a Automatic Train Protection System to avoid train accidents on account of human error of SPAD or over-speeding.
  • Elimination of Unmanned Level Crossings through provision of subways/road under bridges, merger of unmanned level crossing with nearby unmanned/manned gates and closing unmanned crossings having NIL/negligible train vehicle units.

Anil Kakodar Committee on Railway Safety

  • The Ministry of Railways in 2011 appointed a High Level Safety Review Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Anil Kakodkar to review the safety of the Indian Railways and recommend improvements.
  • The Committee noted that the ‘present environment on Indian Railways reveals a grim picture of inadequate performance’ largely due to poor infrastructure and resources, and lack of empowerment at the functional level.
  • The Committee recommended the adoption of an Advanced Signalling System and elimination of all level crossings (both manned and unmanned) to effectively reduce train accidents.
  • The committee noted that the three vital functions of rule making, operations and the regulation are all vested in the Railway Board which hinders safety regulation. It recommended the creation of a statutory Railway Safety Authority with enough powers to have a safety oversight on the operational mode of Railways.

Way Forward

  • Upgrading track structures, digital ultrasonic testing, electrically monitoring track geometry and crash-proofing the coaches are some of the preventive measures yet to be taken.
  • The Linke Hoffman Busch (LHB) coaches made of stainless steel with high shock absorption capabilities must be inducted earliest as recommended by the Anil Kakodkar committee.
  • A time-bound filling up of vacancies in Critical Safety Categories and Manpower Planning Issues must be intiated to bridge the man-power gap in railways.
  • With more than 85% of train accidents in India ascribed to ‘human failure’, Indian Railways must invest in newer technologies, mechanisation of maintenance, upgradation of track structure, including higher capacity long welded rails, their ultrasonic testing and electronic monitoring of track geometry.

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