Editorial : The alarming rise in Train accidents

Darjeeling railway accident

On 17th June, a goods train rammed into the Kanchenjunga Express in Darjeeling, Bengal resulting in the death of 15 passengers and injuring 60. Although an inquiry into the accident has been ordered, it appears that it was due to human error. It is suspected that the loco pilot of the goods train ignored the signal.

The first choice for passenger transport for the common people is the Railways. The network of railway tracks in India is over 1 lakh kilometres and an estimated two and a half crore people travel by train every day. This is an indication of passengers having great faith in the Indian Railways. But now, due to accidents involving passenger trains, this faith is showing signs of shattering.

Crores of Rupees spent for the improvement of Railways

Indian Railways has a history of 185 years. It boasts of the largest transport system in the world. Although the Railway Administration says that continuous improvement in technology has led to an overall improvement in efficiency, the rise in the number of accidents definitely cannot be ignored. Millions of people depend on the Railways every day for transportation. The budget for Railways for the financial year 2023-24 had a provision of Rs 2.40 lakh crore.

According to the information given by the Railway Minister Mr Ashwini Vaishnaw, 5,200 kms of new railway lines were laid. Every year 8,000 km rail lines are replaced. The old railway tracks are being replaced so that trains can run at a speed of 100 km/hr. Some tracks are being replaced for speeds of 130 km/hr and some others are being upgraded for speeds of 160 km/hr for trains such as Vande Bharat.

1-2 train accidents per year

In fact, there has been a sort of chain of railway accidents over the past 75 years since Independence. In the train accident of 1981 in Bihar, over 750 passengers lost their lives. Over the years it has been noted that the reasons for the accidents have been the same and yet, adequate corrective measures are not taken. This is the failure of the system. Frequent incidents such as collision of trains due to technical error is the biggest flaw in this system. In one accident on 2nd June 2023 involving the Coromandel Express in Balasore District of Odisha, 275 people were killed and an estimated 1,000 injured. This was a strange accident involving 3 trains. An express train derailed and overturned and collided with an oncoming train. That train in turn hit a nearby freight train.

In Andhra Pradesh, 100 passengers lost their lives and 40 were seriously injured due to a head-on collision between 2 trains. In this manner, it seems that a series of terrible railway accidents has started in which innocent passengers are losing their lives. Just two months after the collision of the 3 trains in June 2023, ithe Udaipur-Khajurao-Dronagiri Express caught fire in August. On 26th June, in a private coach of the Poonlu-Madurai Express, halting at Madurai station, there was a cylinder explosion in which 10 people were burnt to death. According to the Ministry of Railways, there have been 48 railway accidents in the financial years 2022-23. These statistics are alarming. If there are so many accidents in a single year, the efficiency of the Railways will definitely be questioned.

Most of these accidents are caused by human error. These include carelessness, corruption or negligence of the railway employees who are responsible for the operation, maintenance and management of the trains and the railway tracks. Human error includes faulty signalling, faulty communication, neglecting machinery defects, over-speeding and obvious common hazards. Railway employees lack adequate training and do not have communication skills, which affects their efficiency and coordination ability.

Signalling systems that control the speed and direction of trains can fail due to technical faults, power failures or human errors. Signal failure can cause trains to run on wrong tracks. The train accident in Odisha last year was due to a change in electronic interlocking. The Railway Ministry itself has listed the causes of railway accidents viz. head-on collision of 2 trains, train coaches catching fire, cracking of railway tracks, overlooking of signals by drivers, over speeding, etc. They know the reasons for these accidents and will be taking corrective measures. If these are human errors, there should be contemplation on what additional efforts are needed to avoid them.


When compared with the Railway systems of other countries, India lags far behind in reforms. India needs to improve its infrastructure and safety systems to reach the level of other countries. Before spending crores of Rupees on Metro and Bullet trains, the Union Government should make major improvements in the existing infrastructure and trains. Inadequate facilities & systems, outdated systems, lack of sufficient staff, work pressure on the existing staff, corruption, neglect of safety norms, etc. should be addressed by the Railway Ministry. The Government should provide adequate facilities to the Railways. The recruitment of employees (which has been stalled for many years) should be restarted. It should replace the old and outdated systems.

To prevent railway accidents, RDSO has introduced an anti-collision device, which helps prevent train collisions. This system works on GPS and radio communication. If these modern gadgets are used, accidents can be prevented to some extent. For the safety of passengers, the Indian Railways should urgently use this equipment.

Railway Ministry should replace old and outdated systems to avoid accidents.