Indian railways suffering from inadequate funds and neglect
t’s often described as India’s lifeline, transporting 23 million people across the vast South Asian country each day. India’s rail network, the world’s third largest, operates more than 12,600 trains carrying passengers and cargo along 115,000km of track. With more than 1.4 million employees, it is the country’s largest employer.
But not all is well with state-owned Indian Railways, as was highlighted on Sunday when 14 packed cars on a passenger train skidded off the tracks in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, killing at least 148 people, after two more victims died of their injuries on Tuesday.
For years, it’s been clear that the muchromanticised legacy of British colonial rule, built more than 160 years ago, is badly hobbled by funding shortfalls, aging tracks, outdated signalling and communications systems and a traffic volume that has pushed these systems beyond their limits.
The deadly train tragedy, the cause of which is under investigation, has focused attention on how India can restore both efficiency and public confidence in its railways.
India’s economy has boomed in recent decades, and dozens of private airlines have emerged to serve the growing upper middle class. But for tens of millions of Indians living in the hinterlands or unable to afford air travel, trains are their transportation lifeline.
It can be a dangerous lifeline. India’s crime records bureau says that in 2014, the latest year for which figures are available, more than 25,000 people died in railway accidents that ranged from travellers falling from the roofs of moving trains to train collisions. In 2012, a government safety committee said about 15,000 people die every year trying to cross train tracks, which it referred to as “a massacre”.
On Sunday, after the accident, Uttar Pradesh state Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announced an investigation and said anyone found guilty would be strictly punished.
But blame should also fall on successive governments and railway ministers who have
HORRIFIC: 14 coaches of an overnight passenger train rolled off the track in Uttar Pradesh state