Accidents do happen, and, most often, they are beyond our control. So is the case with rail accidents. However, statistics in India are alarming. In 2015 alone, there have been 8 train accidents owing to derailment. As much as 15% of all the railway accidents across the world in 2013 occurred in India. Here is a recap of this unending saga of rail mishaps and how they happened.
Accident rate in the Indian Railways is nearly 300 accidents each year, which is alarmingly high and needs immediate attention. Though incidents of derailment and collision have reduced to a great extent, human error and fire still pose a problem. The report of the high-level Safety Review Committee of 2012 states that, from 2007–08 to October 2011, railway accidents took 1,019 lives and caused injuries to 2,118 people in India. Accidents also killed 1,600 railway employees and injured 8,700 people. Unlawful trespassing kills about 15,000 persons each year, according to the report. Fire, collision, derailments and unmanned railway crossings are major reasons for the rail accidents.
Low investment in safety measures and upgrading of the tracks, locomotives and signalling systems are stated to be the main cause of these accidents. For the past 20-23 years, the Indian Railway is carrying 15 times more people than its capacity. Overloading is certainly damaging the old tracks, which have a lifespan of their own. Most of the Indian trains are not equipped with fire detection systems. Sometimes smoke and fire detection systems are installed in AC coaches but not in the other compartments of the same train. Detecting fire in the open coaches is more problematic. In some countries, devices to stop the train automatically if it crosses red signal are in place. These avert head-on collisions to a great extent, but no such devices are provided in the Indian Railways, leading to avoidable collisions.
The Indian Railways also lacks new technologies, and, therefore, chances of human error are more, and it is one of the major causes of rail accidents in India. Though nothing can be foolproof with technology, it certainly reduces the chances of accidents. Studies show that 18 out of every 21 accidents occur because of human error. It has also been found out that most of the time organisations compromise on the safety measures. The reasons for compromising safety measures are apparently low investment, delay in installing anti-collision devices, and shortage of manpower. Shortage of staff is another major reason leading to human errors. Less number of employees means work overload. In India, train accidents also occur because of the fault of driver and negligence of the railway staff.
The manual signalling system between stations must be replaced with automated one. Again, this needs huge investment, maintenance and management.
(Read the full article from the 2015 October Issue of the Safety Messenger Magazine)