Derailment setback for railways ambitious high speed network?

Bringing bullet train to India is a dream project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and it was only earlier this month when he signed an agreement on it during his Japan visit.

Published: 21st November 2016 10:33 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st November 2016 10:33 PM   |  A+A-

Kanpur_Train_Derailment-PTI

Police officers on the spot where 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna express derailed killing around 90 people and injuring 150 in Kanpur Dehat on Sunday. | PTI

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: At a time when Indian Railways is pushing big for high speed and bullet trains, the Indore-Patna Express derailment seems to have caused a setback with the top brass of the Railway Board Monday brainstorming to decide the future moves.

The safety review meeting was held in the Railway Board on Monday consisting of entire top brass. Besides, top officers in Mobility directorate handling high speed network took stock of the existing work so far. Nine sections were announced in the rail budget to run semi high speed train at 160 kmph. At present only Delhi-Agra section has a high speed train. 

“Senior officer of the mobility directorate held series of meetings and derailment was seen as kind of a pull back when railway wanted to go full throttle on it,” said sources in the ministry.

After the Railway Board safety review meeting, it was decided to hold a meeting with all GM level officers this week and overhaul the entire safety directorate. 

Bringing bullet train to India is a dream project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and it was only earlier this month when he signed an agreement on it during his Japan visit.

Meanwhile, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu informed the parliament of taking strictest possible action against the guilty in the accident. But questions are being raised in the Ministry of Railways whether any tough decisions will be taken to fix accountability of top officials after the submission of the inquiry report.

“Statutory inquiry by Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) into this accident has been ordered to determine the correct cause of the accident.  There shall be separate comprehensive investigation aided by latest technical and forensic analysis by an appropriate agency to look into all possible angles. Strictest possible action would be taken against the guilty,” Prabhu informed the parliament.

According to sources, railways is now also looking at axle jam as another possible cause of derailment, besides, track fracture.

“There are three main causes of derailment – track fracture, axle jam or sabotage. It doesn’t looks like to be case of sabotage and the first two could be a possible reason,” said a senior railway officer.

Many senior railway officials are shocked over the high death toll of over 140 in a derailment accident. Some said that they have never seen such images of mangled bogies emerging from the accident in their entire career.     

Valid concerns have been raised about poor rail infrastructure, funds crunch, shortage of staff and lack in maintenance of rolling stock but the ministry said that Rs 53,727 has been allocated for safety measures in this financial year while Rs 46,048 was spent in 2015-16 under the same head.

“There is no denying that railway has funds crunch and it should seriously looks to generate revenues but efforts are on to improve rail infrastructure. The problem is lacking direction and focus on what needs to be done and taking tough decisions,” said another railway officer.   

The ministry said that the train was running at speed of 107 kmph on track laid in 1998 and sleeper coaches, which saw maximum casualty, were four year short of their 25 year-old lifetime. The AC coaches were only running for last 2 year.

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