India’s Prime Minister was set to inaugurate a new electrical semi-high-speed train with advanced safety features, marking another step in the modernization of the country’s outdated railway system. However, he instead traveled to eastern Odisha state to deal with one of the worst train disasters in the country’s history, which left over 280 people dead and hundreds injured. India’s railway system, which transports nearly 22 million passengers daily, is one of the world’s most extensive and complicated, with over 40,000 miles of tracks, 14,000 passenger trains, and 8,000 stations. Despite efforts to improve safety, several hundred accidents occur every year, with over 100,000 train-related deaths reported from 2017 to 2021. Derailments are the most common form of rail accidents in India, with track defects, maintenance issues, outdated signaling equipment, and human errors cited as the main causes. The Modi government has invested billions of dollars in the railways, but experts suggest that the system needs to prioritize safe tracks and collision protection. The recent crash should prompt authorities to address the lax safety culture and work towards making the railway system safer.
On May 8, India experienced one of its worst train accidents in recent years, leaving at least 66 people dead and more than 200 injured. The incident occurred near Kanpur in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, when the Indore-Patna Express derailed and 14 of its coaches overturned.
This tragic accident has raised questions of safety in India’s train transport system as the government continues to push for an upgrade of the nation’s outdated rail infrastructure. While, the cause of the derailment is yet to be determined, concerns have been expressed over increasing speed limits without suitable safety measures in place, something that could have been a possible factor in the incident.
The Indian Railways is the fourth largest railway network in the world and the largest employer, with the World Bank estimating that in 2014-15 the Railways carried 8.25 billion passengers and 970 million tonnes of freight. However, its features have remained largely unchanged for decades, suffering from a lack of modernisation when compared to other cities and countries around the globe.
The Indian government is now beginning to take steps to improve India’s railway infrastructure. The Government has announced plans to introduce high-speed trains as well as introduce automatic signaling across the network. Other measures such as improved access to wireless networks, advanced brakes, and improved acceleration are also planned. The government aims to achieve these goals by 2019.
However, these developments have been met with criticism from opposition parties who are sceptical of the government’s lack of focus on passenger safety. They have argued that modernization is mere window dressing and that the Railways should first focus on its safety features.
In the wake of such tragic events, the government must ensure that safety is a priority and must work quickly to implement the promised safety features. The combination of smarter infrastructure and improved safety measures will help ensure that passengers are safe and their lives are not put at risk.
Only then can the government truly be sure of providing a safe, comfortable and successful railway system that delivers a high-quality service to the people of India.
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