Rail Crash Raises Concerns Of Underinvestment As Toll Hits 142
Indian rescuers on Monday called off a search of the mangled carriages of a derailed train after pulling more bodies from the wreckage, taking to at least 142 the number of passengers killed in the disaster. Last Sunday’s derailment in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh was India’s deadliest train tragedy since 2010 and has renewed concern about poor safety on the state-run network, a lifeline for millions that has suffered from chronic underinvestment. Rescue teams worked through the night with cranes and cutters to disentangle the train before Police halted the search of the 14 carriages that derailed in the early hours, while most passengers slept. “The rescue operations are over. We don’t expect to find any more bodies,” said Zaki Ahmed, the Police Inspector General in the city of Kanpur, about 65 km (40 miles) from Pukhrayan, the crash site. The crash came during India’s busy wedding season and media said blood-stained bags of saris and wedding cards carried by at least one wedding party on board were scattered beside the wreckage. The derailment injured more than 200 people, at least 58 of them seriously, officials said, as relatives thronged hospitals in a search for survivors. A railways spokesperson said the train carried 1000 people traveling on reservations, but 700 more were estimated to have squeezed into the unreserved carriages.
The largely colonial-era railway system, the world’s fourth largest, carries about 23 million people daily, but is saturated and aging badly. Average speeds top just 50 kph (30 mph) and train accidents are common. The crash is a stark reminder of the obstacles facing Prime Minister Narendra Modi in delivering on his promise to turn the railways into a more efficient, safer network befitting India’s economic power. Mr Modi this year pledged record levels of investment and has announced a new high-speed line funded by Japan, but the main network has made little progress on upgrading tracks or signaling equipment. He has also shied away from raising highly subsidised fares that leave the railways with next to nothing for investment - by some analyst estimates, they need 20 trillion rupees (F$617.6 billion) of investment by 2020. Last Sunday, Mr Modi held a political rally about 210 km from the crash site in Uttar Pradesh, which heads to the polls early next year in an election his Bharatiya Janata Party is vying to win.
Rescue workers search for survivors at the site where the Indore-Patna Express train came off the tracks in the city of Kanpur.