Innovation in railways continues today, and transport researchers are working to find new ways to reduce costs and increase transport efficiency. Clearly, we are exposed to risk when we travel, but how much risk? And, how much are we prepared to pay to reduce that risk? We strive for ‘zero
accidents’ but that cannot be achieved without costs.
The safety of trains has improved over the years due to the design of anti-telescopic coaches, better quality of tracks and sleepers, better signalling systems, and modern training to frontline staff. Further improvements are in the offing. However, in reality, train travel is both absolutely and relatively safe. It would be technically feasible to reduce railway risk much further, but it would have huge financial implications. Indian Railways is already subsidising passenger transportation with various concessions as a welfare institution. The present climate of financial thinking is that railways should be financially self-supporting. The cost of technological innovation to keep pace with Japanese or European standards of safety would be a price that can drive passengers off the railway and onto less safe modes of transport.
There is an over exposure in our media of lurid reports of train accidents and the demand for instant explanation. After full and careful investigation, all accidents produce lessons which can be used to improve safety in the future. As is the case in all fields of endeavour, rail safety in our country is an overall reflection of society we live in. Comparisons are invariably drawn with the safety records of the Japanese Shinkansen network or the German, French or British systems in terms of punctuality, safety, etc. The standard they adhere to is a mirror to the system, personal and professional commitments, quality of material and equipment used system of checks, and also to the civic sense of the citizens at a large.
(Subscribe to Read more in the October 2015 issue of the Safety Messenger Magazine)