New Delhi: Safety on tracks has been a big concern for the Indian Railways in the past. Though the accidents have gone down over the years, the number has been around 100. Only in 2017-18, the number was 73, which was the first time in 35 years.

The number of rail accidents has declined from 13,929 325 in 1960-70 to 73 in 2017-18. According to Indian railways data, over 700,000 people work on safety-related operations and responsible for 66,030-km long track spread across the country.

2017-18: 73

Factors behind the mishaps

Railway accidents happen due to various reasons. An incorrect signal, a mistake or negligence by one of the direct staffs can lead to a massive loss. Between 2003-04 and 2015-16, derailments were the second highest reason for casualties.

Consequential train accidents

Collisions, derailments, accidents at level crossings, train fires and similar accidents that have serious repercussions in terms of casualties and damage to property are called consequential train accidents.

Accidents due to human negligence

Many accidents happen due to staff negligence. The share of failure of railways staff is the biggest cause of consequential rail accidents. The number of rail accidents due to the failure of reasons other than the railway staff (sabotage) has increased in the last few years.

2018 in focus

Following Suresh Prabhu’s departure due to a chain of events such as the derailment of Utkal Express and others, present railway minister Piyush Goyal and the Railway Board led by Lohani have stressed on safety upgrade works, even at the cost of temporarily affecting operations in many areas, like speed restrictions in a number of areas.

26 April 2018: 13 school children died and 8 were injured after the school bus carrying nearly 25 students collided with a speeding train at an unmanned crossing in Uttar Pradesh's Kushinagar

May 6, 2018: An assistant loco pilot of Howrah-Mumbai Mail died after he fell off the train while inspecting smoke emanating from the locomotive. 

July 24, 2018: Five passengers on a suburban train were killed after the train hit a hard surface near St. Thomas Mount station in the Chennai Beach-Chengalpattu section. Four others were seriously injuried.

October 10, 2018: The New Farakka Express to New Delhi derailed near Rae Bareli, killing seven people and injuring several others.

Indian Railways has divided its 66,030 km of track into 1,219 sections and out of these 492 are running at 100% capacity, in some cases more. Most accidents occur on these over-capacity routes. Northern Railways is the most accident prone.

Graphics: Kaushik Barua