In­dian rail toll hits 142 on de­crepit line

Con­cerns about poor con­di­tion, low safety stan­dards, lit­tle in­vest­ment

The Star (Kenya) - - News -

REUTERS/ In­dian res­cue work­ers con­cluded their search of the man­gled car­riages of a de­railed train yes­ter­day, bring­ing the num­ber of pas­sen­gers killed in the dis­as­ter to at least 142. More than 200 were in­jured.

Sun­day’s de­rail­ment in the state of Ut­tar Pradesh was In­dia’s dead­li­est train crash since 2010 and has re­newed con­cern about the poor safety stan­dard of the state-run net­work. It is a life­line for mil­lions of In­di­ans but has suf­fered from chronic un­der­in­vest­ment.

Po­lice at the ac­ci­dent site said res­cue teams had fin­ished their search for bod­ies buried in the 14 car­riages that de­railed in the early hours while most of the more than 500 pas­sen­gers were asleep. Some re­ports in­di­cated a rail was bro­ken, caus­ing the train to veer off the track.

“The res­cue op­er­a­tions are over. We don’t ex­pect to find any more bod­ies,” said Zaki Ahmed, po­lice in­spec­tor gen­eral in the north­ern city of Kan­pur. The largely colonial-era rail­way sys­tem, the world’s fourth largest, car­ries about 23 mil­lion peo­ple ev­ery day. But it is sat­u­rated and age­ing badly. Av­er­age speeds top just 50kph and train ac­ci­dents are com­mon. The crash is a stark re­minder of how hard it will be for Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi to ful­fil his prom­ise to trans­form the rail­ways into a more ef­fi­cient, safer net­work be­fit­ting In­dia’s eco­nomic power.

Modi this year pledged record lev­els of in­vest­ment and has an­nounced a new high-speed line funded by Ja­pan, but lit­tle progress has been made on up­grad­ing tracks or in­stalling mod­ern sig­nalling equip­ment.

He has also shied away from rais­ing highly sub­sidised fares that leave the rail­ways with next to noth­ing for in­vest­ment.

/REUTERS

A rail­way em­ployee cuts a rail­way track at the site of Sun­day’s train de­rail­ment in Pukhrayan, south of Kan­pur city, In­dia, yes­ter­day

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