The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Railway safety blueprint

New Delhi, April 7: The Centre plans to focus on reducing railway accidents by upgrading skills, knowledge and technology and bringing about greater transparency in accident inquiries.

In a White Paper presented in Parliament today by railway minister Nitish Kumar, the Centre has emphasised the need for constant technological back-up support and knowledge of latest developments to reduce accidents triggered by staff failure.

“It may not be possible to eliminate human errors till there is complete mechanisation and automation. However, efforts are being continuously made to contain and minimise them,” the document says.

It further states that two-third of accidents are attributable to staff failure, either directly or indirectly.

“Considering the public expectations, the ministry of railways has advised the civil aviation ministry, which administratively controls the commission to publish all the reports immediately after their finalisation, to bring transparency in the process,” the document says about inquiries.

During the last decade (1992-93 to 2001-02), 55 per cent of major train accidents involved freight trains. According to the paper, 75 per cent train accidents were attributable to derailment, 16 per cent to various failures at level-crossings, 7 per cent to collisions and 2 per cent to fire.

The document claims a 21 per cent drop in the total number of accidents during the last decade. The accident rate slid from 524 in 1992-93 to 414 in 2001-02.

“Nearly 85 per cent of the derailments are caused by failure of railway staff, of which a major share is attributed to staff maintaining track and rolling stock, including 10 per cent due to equipment failure,” the document says.

The funds provided for track renewals have been adequate and, thus, annual replacement of tracks has not been taken up, the Paper says. The Centre, however, has set up a Rs 17,000-crore Special Railway Safety Fund.

The railways is expected to repair 16,500-km stretch of tracks at an estimated Rs 6,584 crore over the next five years. It has also announced the installation of an indigenously developed anti-collision device at all railway stations.

Among other measures that the railways have planned are continuous track circuiting between stations, disaster management system, tight lock central buffer coupler and anti-climbing features on coaches and filling up of 20,000 vacancies in the Group D category that comprises personnel such as gangmen.

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