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  Opinion   Edit  18 Jun 2024  AA Edit | Negligence of safety rules led to WB train accident

AA Edit | Negligence of safety rules led to WB train accident

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Jun 19, 2024, 12:05 am IST
Updated : Jun 19, 2024, 12:05 am IST

Criminal negligence in following basic safety protocols highlights systemic failures in India's railway operations

Wreckage of trains a day after the collision between the Kanchanjunga Express and a goods train, near Rangapani railway station, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. At least nine people died and several others injured in the accident, according to officials. (PTI Photo)
 Wreckage of trains a day after the collision between the Kanchanjunga Express and a goods train, near Rangapani railway station, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. At least nine people died and several others injured in the accident, according to officials. (PTI Photo)

Criminal negligence in following rules for safe operations led to a horrendous train accident in which 11 lives of crew and passengers were lost. The most basic SOPs in the event of failure of the automatic signalling system, especially as an express train and a goods train were running on the same track, were not followed leading to yet another crash that points to the inefficiency of the Indian railway system.

The probe may not go very far in fixing accountability as the locomotive pilot of the goods train also died as well as the guard of the express train. This is another mishap which casts the entire system in poor light. It appears that safety is no concern when it comes to operating trains and talk of arming all trains with the ‘Kavach’ shield system, which has been available for decades, is just that — mere talk.

It was up to the Opposition to point out that not a single kilometre of the Kavach anti-collision system had been added since the Balasore accident in June 2023. The unfortunate ones were those travelling in the Kanchenjunga Express, slowed to a crawl by regulations governing train running after failure of signals by which trains are allowed to go through red lights too, but only with several precautions.

In a clearly irresponsible case of a speeding goods train there will be far less sympathy for the driver who ran into the train in front of him and carrying 1,300 passengers. Regulations stipulate that in rainy conditions, drivers must keep trains under a speed limit of 10 kmph.

Mercifully, parcel vans took most of the impact of the collision thus reducing the derailing of passenger coaches to just one. Had the train configuration been different, the fatalities would have been far more than 11 people, nine of them being fare paying passengers besides two staffers.

It was after more than two hours after the signalling system failure that the crash near the New Jalpaiguri station took place, which goes to suggest that messages were either not transmitted to engine drivers to remind them of SOPs in such conditions or the drivers ignored it as it may have been in the case of the goods train.

In the modern age, communication is possible in real time, but that is only if safety is an absolute priority in the running of trains. The criticism of basic callousness in train operations, which the latest accident also exemplifies, is not unfounded.

The crash also reflects that not much has been learnt from one of the worst railway accidents in history with three trains crashing in Odisha when a signalling error and failure of the automated electronic interlocking system, which should ensure that trains do not crash head-on, led to an accident in which nearly 300 passengers died.

Again, it was up to the Opposition to point to an NCRB report putting out a ballpark figure of one lakh deaths from railway accidents between 2017 and 2021 and the fact that despite severe manpower shortage, particularly in the important area of locomotive pilots, too many posts have gone unfilled among the three lakh vacancies that are said to exist now. In short, Indian Railways has been going off the track and sadly for the dead it takes fatalities to point this out.

Tags: aa edit, train accident, train collision