Station naming deals announced
Runaway Rail Car Kicked Loose by Teen Hits New York Station
Škoda unveils its second tram for the Chinese market
Wabtec to buy Faiveley Transport for US$1·8bn
Constantine tram extension contract
Channel Tunnel: '2,000 migrants' tried to enter
Ottawa urban rail gets federal funding
UK and Italian operators order Vossloh locomotives
First Great Western and Eversholt sign Hitachi AT300 train contract
Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi invite interest in DIKKM railway
India was built on, and runs on, its railways.
Every day across this broad land, more than 20 million Indians ride those rails, and 2.5 million tonnes of freight are carted from farm or factory to market.
For many, and for much produced here, this is the only reliable, affordable way.
Such is the significance to this country of its government-owned train network that the day before the national budget is handed down, a separate railways budget is delivered, to equal scrutiny.
And while India is rightly proud of the logistical marvel that is its daily rail timetable, the country finds itself gripped by increasing concern over train safety.
Derailments and collisions are common, tracks and trains are attacked and sabotaged, and unmarked, unguarded level crossings are black spots for accidents.
Now a report from a government-appointed safety review has pointed a finger at its own masters, alleging "a massacre" is occurring on India's railways, one that the country can no longer tolerate.
India had 141 ''consequential'' train accidents last year, a slight decrease on previous years. The number of passengers killed in 2011, however, jumped 58 per cent to 381, and the total casualties were up a third, to 844. But by far the most troubling figure was the estimated 15,000 people killed every year walking on train tracks - more than 40 every day.
Six thousand of those deaths occur in the crowded, land-starved metropolis of Mumbai, where some slum dwellers live beside and between four or five train tracks. Men and women are forced to cross tracks, and children walk along them to school.
Indian Railways does not take responsibility for these deaths on its tracks, but they "are nevertheless accidents on account of trains and can by no means be ignored'', the report says. "No civilised society can accept such a massacre on their railway system."
The Indian government is the lawmaker, operator and regulator of the train system, a clear conflict of interests, and a new, independent, safety authority is needed.
But the major problem is money. "The financial state of Indian Railways is at the brink of collapse unless some concrete measures are taken," the report found.
It urged government to spend 1 trillion rupees ($18.4 billion) on upgrading safety on its train network over the next five years. But no one wants to pay for it. When the new Railways Minister Dinesh Trivedi last month tried to increase fares by between 2 paise and 30 paise (about half a cent) per kilometre - the first price rise in a decade - he was pilloried by the public and his own party and forced into a humiliating resignation.
At Kolkata's sprawling Sealdah Station, the ebb and flow of commuters is ceaseless. Those with hours to wait spread newspaper on the concrete floor and wait in the cavernous main hall.
A traffic man, Shivshankar Bairagi, who watches out for pedestrians, says safety is a concern, but people rely on the trains. Buses and taxis are too expensive.
"There is a problem with overcrowding, the number of passengers is double the train's capacity,'' he says. ''Another problem is timing, Mostly the trains are late, and the numbers of trains and bogeys needs to be increased."
But he says the flaws are exacerbated by passengers. "People have to think for themselves. Sometimes people jump, some hang outside or on the trains and some people, if they have missed their train, they run after it."
Chandu, a regular commuter, says the train services are generally good.
"But the number of trains should increase because there is always a crowd of people on them,'' he says. ''Accidents are taking place."
About this website
Railpage version 3.10.0.0037
All logos and trademarks in this site are property of their respective owner. The comments are property of their posters, all the rest is © 2003-2020 Interactive Omnimedia Pty Ltd.
You can syndicate our news using one of the RSS feeds.