NEW DELHI: Indian Railways has seen rise in derailments in 2016 with 67 cases reported this year compared to 52 during the same period last year, what is worrying is backlog of 5000 km track length for renewal in last six years.
The Ajmer-Seldah derailment Wednesday injuring over 60 people is the second in over a month. Last month, 150 people were killed when Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur.
According to railways, derailments may be on account of defect in the track or defect in the rolling stock and it is essential to carry out not only the track maintenance operations, but also to renew the track as and when it becomes due for renewal.
But the data with the ministry show a poor picture as railways has a network of total track length of 1,14,907 kilometres and of this, on an average 4500 kilometres of track should ideally be renewed annually.
“However, due to financial constraints the progress of track renewals is constantly coming down since the last six years. Currently, 5000 km track length was due for renewal,” according to a 'White Paper on Indian Railways' published in February, 2015.
The matter was also raised by a parliamentary standing committee under TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay. Chairman Railway Board A K Mital in response to the committee had said that around 5000 km of track renewal is overdue and it is mainly due to funds crunch.
“We are doing annually the track renewal of around 2700 kilometres. So, we have an arrear of which is not more than one year. 2700 kilometres I will do this year and the balance left will be 2300 kilometres,” said Mital.
Railways Wednesday acknowledged rise in derailments this year and said steps are being taken to strengthen rail infrastructure to achieve zero accident target.
Whether paucity of funds is affecting railway safety, Member (Traffic) Mohd Jamshed said Rs 7500 crore has been allocated in the Rail Budget for track renewal and strengthening of bridges but there is a need for a separate rail safety fund.