NEW DELHI: In the backdrop of a five-fold jump in deaths due to derailments of trains in 2016-17, a study by NITI Aayog calls for Union Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu to put his house in order. The think-tank panel has claimed that while human failure accounted for 87 per cent of mishaps, there has been a 60 per cent increase in number of accidents for which engineering directorate was responsible.
The think-tank panel has also noted that A and B category of high density rail routes, which connect New Delhi to Howrah, Mumbai, Kharagpur, Vijaywada and Ahmedabad account for 40 per cent of total derailments. The study, a copy of which is available with Express, and that analysed data from 2012-13 to 2016-17 also noted that “non-railway users are responsible for the largest number (40 per cent) of rail accidents”.
The study stressed that the accidents due to failure of railways staff have been on the rise, as they stood at 64 (2016-17) against 55 (2015-16), 60 (2014-15), 51 (2013-14), and 46 (2012-13). “Failure of railway staff accounted for 61.5 per cent of the total accidents in 2016-17, which along with non-railway staff stood at 82.7 per cent. “The key take away from data is that initiatives that reduce potential of human errors such as automated inspection and asset monitoring techniques, replacement of over-aged assets (tracks, signalling) and upgradation of asset maintenance infrastructure needs priority emphasis,” the findings of the study noted, while stressing that human failure contribution of railway staff has consistently increased over the last five years.
Incidentally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an election speech in Uttar Pradesh this year had attributed terror links in derailments of trains. While sabotage accounted for just two rail accidents in 2016-17, the study noted that 102 other mishaps were on account of failure of railway staff (64), failure of non-railway staff (22), failure of equipment (2) and all other factors (14). The study has come down heavily on the engineering department, which accounted for 43.6 per cent of all derailments in the last five years, which along with electrical and mechanical shared 60 per cent blame for all derailments. “With such disproportionate contribution to accidents and deterioration year on year record, there is clearly a strong case for ensuring highest priority to engineering works,” the study argued, while adding that derailments may not be taking place only because of track defects but also due to deficiencies in rolling stock, wheels.
With the Finance Minister Arun Jaitely having earmarked Rs one lakh crore for the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) for five years, the NITI Aayog report is likely to lay the roadmap for prioritisation of works to be undertaken by the Ministry of Railways.
“Minimizing derailments and level crossing related accidents is the clear priority, which should be funded adequately. For derailments, inter-departmental initiatives and those of civil engineering in particular need to be funded. Without the above priorities, achieving a perceptible improvement in railway safety may be unlikely,” the report of the think-tank noted.