Are we supposed to travel by train ignoring fractures in rail – tracks? A few days ago, at least 6 people died and 24 injured when nine coaches of Delhi – bound Seemanchal Express derailed in Bihar’s Vaishali. Railways have said that a fracture in rail-tracks caused the derailment.
On many occasions, track fractures are the cause of derailment massacres and old ICF coaches add insult to injury. The Kakodar Committee on Rail Safety as well as the Sam Pitroda Committee on Modernization of Indian Railways have recommended complete migration from ICF to LHB coaches as the latter can ensure enhanced passenger safety in case of derailment. Presently, LHB coaches are restricted only to Shatabdi, Rajdhani, Duronto premium trains. But it needs to be extended to all other trains immediately to ensure safety of the passengers.
The irony is that while the Ahmedabad – Mumbai, bullet train project will cost Rs. One lakh crore; financial constraints hinder track renewal, a total replacement of coaches from ICF to LHB, modernisation of signalling systems and building flyovers over all important railway crossings. Then, why on earth must we give priority to bullet trains? Indian Railways cannot afford to undertake such a costly project while compromising on safety standards.
When we have a speedier alternative in air transport, there is no reason why Indian Railways must compete with airways. Railways cannot make their bullet ride a cheaper option than air travel. Bullet train is indeed a glaring example of misplaced priority. Without spending more money on it, the government needs to make existing train journeys more punctual and safe. Moreover, there is an urgent need to expand and modernise railways and also to fill the vacancies on war footing not only to give more jobs to Indian youths but also to improve the safety standards. It will be dangerous if train drivers are made to do double duty as a result of personnel shortage. It will be equally dangerous if there is a lack of man power in the field of track inspections and maintenance.
Sujit De, Kolkata