The railway system has the most intricate and involved network that requires safety operations simultaneously with many interconnected departments. The Indian Railways has 64,000 route kilometers of track that crisscross the country, with about 9,500 locos, 55,000 coaches, that haul about 23 million passengers every day.
There are tens of thousands of signals. One mistake or negligence by an employee in any one of these areas directly associated with the running of train, or rash use of any one of the millions of road users who daily negotiate around level-crossing gates spread across the system, be it the 18,785 manned or 11,563 unmanned level crossings (a total of 30,348), or a mistake by any irresponsible passenger carrying an inflammable item in the coach – any one of this or more has the potential to cause a major railway accident any time.
Added to these are sabotages by miscreants who damage tracks and keep blocks on the tracks, causing accidents. Hence it is very important that the railway management takes the utmost precautions in all the areas mentioned above and other areas at all times – 24x7x365 safety. The accidents mentioned above are the major ones. Apart from this, there are plenty of other accidents which are due to passenger faults or due to poor design.
Some of them are:
Accidents happening in platforms where a passenger falls in between the platform and the train and gets pulled away; more gap between the platform and the train while stationary and train the starting; accidents from moving trains due to fall from train; pedestrians walking along railway tracks and getting run over by trains; accidents while crossing railway tracks; suicides on the railway track; people travelling on top of train and falling or hitting overbridges; accidents during dacoity or theft; getting electrocuted while travelling on the top of train or while taking photo standing in running train on the top; minor accidents and thefts giving drinks and food mixed with anesthetic chemicals; and stealing bags, luggage with costly items or exchanging bags.
The general types of major accidents in railways are collisions, derailment, accidents in level crossings, fires in trains, road vehicles colliding with train at level-crossings, and bomb and other explosions requiring major safety actions by the Railways to prevent recurrence of any such accidents. According to one report, the incidents of train accidents per million train km was decreased from 5.5 in 1961-62 to 0.13 in 2011-12 by various actions taken by the Railways.
Out of 131 total accidents that happened in 2011-12, 122 took place on broad-gauge tracks and 8 occurred on metre gauge tracks. Freight trains were involved in 36 accidents, and passenger trains were involved in 95 accidents. Out of these, about 88% were due to human failure, including 37% due to failure of railway staff; 48% due to other than railway staff; 3.8% due to failure of equipment; 4.6% accidents were due to sabotage; 0.8% due to combination of factors; 2.3% due to incidental factors; and 0.8 % due to unknown reasons.