The Telegraph
Friday , June 27 , 2014
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Mistakes a lesson in rail safety
- Posers on tracks after Rajdhani tragedy

As speculations continue on whether the derailment of New Delhi-Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express in Bihar was caused by a sabotage or poor maintenance of tracks, Ranchi railway division has started doing its own homework, taking stock of similar incidents that occurred under it in the past and how these can be averted in the future.

Though it is a routine exercise that the railways undertake from time to time, it assumes significance in the wake of Wednesday’s Rajdhani tragedy that left four passengers dead and at least 21 injured.

According to divisional railway manager (DRM) Deepak Kashyap, they are busy calculating the number of mishaps on tracks, derailments and other such incidents to gauge their own performance and assess probable threats on the respective rail routes.

“The Ranchi division has around 441km of tracks under its jurisdiction. Out of this, around 150km — which comes to around 30 per cent — falls in Naxalite zones under Ranchi-Lohardaga, Muri-Chandil and Hatia-Orga sections. Irrespective of rebel threat and other limitations, we believe that most accidents can be averted with presence of mind and commitment,” Kashyap said.

For instance, he added, a few weeks ago, a major disaster was averted when the Hatia-Patna Express was forcibly stopped by the driver of Muri-Dhanbad Passenger that had jumped tracks near Bokaro station. The derailment was caused by a fracture on the tracks.

“Timely intelligence reports, if taken seriously, can prevent many mishaps. But when it comes to maintenance, we must admit that regular upkeep of tracks can be really helpful,” Kashyap said.

Derailment, he explained, can occur under four circumstances — sabotage, fracture in tracks, “blasts” (pebbles) placed unevenly and “flat tyre” (malfunctioning wheels).

While the first three causes can be checked through regular maintenance, railway employees cannot play a prior role to prevent sabotage.

Asked whether a ban needs to be clamped on movement of passenger trains at night just as it was done after the Jnaneswari Express sabotage in 2010, the DRM said: “As of now, we don’t have any such instruction. These decisions are taken only by the headquarters.”

Does it mean that the tracks are safe at the moment?

“If only we had adequate security personnel, I could have said yes,” he said.

At present, the Ranchi division, which falls under South Eastern Railway, has 469 RPF personnel. As many as 287 positions are vacant.