NEW DELHI: Concerned over the rising number of train accidents, 40 per cent of them owing to avoidable reasons, Railways is preparing a proposal to seek a special safety fund to the tune of `1 lakh crore from the Union Ministry of Finance to remove level crossings, repairing of old bridges and carrying out track maintenance and enhancing sleeper density.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Tuesday held a meeting with the General Managers of all 17 Railway Zones to discuss an action plan and implementation strategy to make rail travel safer for passengers. He asked the general managers of all Zones to “pull up their socks”, stating that laxity wouldn’t be tolerated.
He also emphasised on external audit of safety in Zones by experts from other Zones, former top railway officers and others. “Negligence and carelessness will not be tolerated. Safety is not negotiable. There should be safety audits at all levels and action taken on the audit reports should be followed up and monitored regularly,” Prabhu told the meeting called, specifically to review safety, after the series of train mishaps in the past few days.
Last week, two British nationals were killed and 13 others injured after a toy train derailed between Kalka-Shimla. In August, 30 passengers died in derailments in Madhya Pradesh.
Mumbai suburban rail service also witnessed two derailments on Monday. Fortunately, there was no casualty. The Railway Minister sought accountability in case of safety failure and asked the GMs and the Railway Board to fix the responsibility at every level. Prabhu also called for fixing a time frame for completion of safety audit and also set a deadline for corrective action based on the audit.
The Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha also took strong exception to the series of mishaps and said “enough is enough” and “now the time has come for taking hard decisions.”
Sinha asked the GMs to make changes in safety drill, if necessary. “If you want to make any changes in the safety functioning then do it. We are with you for it,” said Sinha while asking to fill up the safety posts on a priority basis.
Railways has so far reported 54 accidents between April 1 and September 15, 2015 and over 40 pc of accidents happened because of a railway employee’s mistake or because of a system failure, said chairman of the Railway Board A K Mital after the meeting. “We are concerned that the increase in train accidents but it is less than the number of accidents reported last year during the same period which totalled 77,” said Mital.