Rescuing the Rail

By the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal

The recent derailment of Indore-Patna Express train that claimed more than 140 lives is one of the most devastating accidents in recent memory.  It was a mishap that could have been averted when concerns were raised by passengers that there was something wrong with the train. This is where the neglect and carelessness part comes in.

 Indian rail network is one of the oldest in the world, being the largest source of commute for most of the Indians; it takes more than its share of beating, wear and tear but it also has one of the largest work force to keep things running and a separate budget of its own. The direst need of railways is the maintenance of its ageing infrastructure which is further hampered by the effect of elements, floods and other natural calamities but even then the maintenance of engines, bogies, tracks and power lines alone can avert major disasters like this.

 Though new administration is trying to introduce new and faster trains but in light of this accident I think they’ll be better off focusing on improving the existing infrastructure. The Tender procurement process that’s given out for building and upkeep of existing structure needs to be closely monitored, though this process is fairer than before but strict measures should be in place to observe that contractors don’t give kickbacks to railway officials and they don’t cut costs at the expense of quality. Second crucial point in averting disasters is engineering. The yards and shops where the train maintenance and overhaul is carried out needs to be updated with latest technology, staff should be trained regularly and a uniform process of checks and balances needs to be in place on keeping an eye on faulty and aging equipment. Timely repair and avoiding over usage of parts when they have run their course is important too, this is where the engineering aspect is important. The officials that run zones, divisions and sub-divisions right from zonal heads to linemen to the railway control room should be ready to respond to any complaints and concerns from passengers or engineers. A timely act of caution can save many lives. The track inspection need to be increased and where needed new or more lines should be laid down.

 Money is not a problem for Indian Railways, yes it has its challenges but the problem lies in management and I am not talking about ministers, they come and go but the employees remain and the work culture is typical of snail paced government drudgery. We need to change the core of railways which takes everything for granted as long as this mentality is there we will continue to have this wholesale, unwanted loss of life.

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