â€˜Unofficialâ€™ track maintenance could be the reason behind the train accident
On Saturday, August 19, an express train derailed in northern India, leaving 23 people dead and around 74 injured, as Uttar Pradesh Minister Satish Mahana has confirmed. The accident took place near the city of Khatauli in the Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh, when 14 of the train's coaches derailed and toppled over each other while travelling from Puri to Haridwar. Rescue operations are completed and all the injured have been shifted to local hospitals. Railway minister Suresh Prabhu, who is personally monitoring the situation, has ordered an inquiry into the derailment and said strict action will be taken in case of any lapses. He also announced Rs 3.5 lakh ($ 5,400) ex-gratia for the next of kin of those who lost their lives, Rs 50,000 ($ 780) for the seriously injured and Rs 25,000 ($390) for those who suffered minor injuries.
The first indications show that the accident is the result of the negligence of railways staff, who were engaged in "unofficial" maintenance of the track, without putting any speed restrictions through red flags or warning signals on the route. As the driver was unaware of the track maintenance, the train was running at a speed of 106 kmph while the speed limit during track maintenance must be around 10-15kmph!
The practice of "unofficial" maintenance of tracks seems to be common, as railway staff is on many occasions under pressure to maintain the track on time under heavy traffic. The mishap happened on a B category route, while the focus of railways officials is generally on high density "A" category routes meaning that B & C category corridors are often neglected, according to a source. "Even the Indore-Patna Express derailment which killed more than 150 people in Nov 2016 took place near Pukhrayan on Kanpur-Jhansi section which falls in B category," an official said.
The possibility of sabotage is not being considered as another official said the train derailed after the engine and five coaches passed the spot safely which would not be possible at the speed of 106kmph if the track was tampered with.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is planning to invest $137 billion over five years to upgrade the network, making it safer, faster and more efficient. In this direction, numerous deals have been signed between the government and private companies.
Source: Times of India
Photo Source: CNN