Millennium Post

Not just human error

The accident of the Hampi Express that has resulted in the death of about 25 and injury to 75 is most unfortunate. This newspaper offers its condolences to the families of those bereaved. Railway accidents are not new to this country. What has to be ensured is that they never become routine. Even though the number of accidents has been consistently going down over the years, a large number of accidents continue to happen regularly, which is alarming for the state run network. In the immediate aftermath of the Hampi Express accident the blame game has begun. It is the driver of the locomotive who has been blamed by the railways for the mishap in which the Hampi Express hit a stationary goods train from behind.  While a thorough investigation will bring out the true causes of the accident, it may be said at this juncture that it is too facile to simply blame the locomotive driver for an error that led to the accident. Even if it were true that the driver was responsible, it is also a fact that many locomotive drivers are overworked because the railways are understaffed and qualified and quality drivers are not available in sufficient numbers. This is a factor that leads to pressure and stress on the ones that are serving the railways.

There are, therefore, deeper causes as to why such accidents take place than merely the factor of human error that immediately strikes the eye and which is listed most often as a cause by the railways. There are many problems with the Indian railways, which is the fourth largest networks in the world and these cumulate to set up situations that lead to accidents.

The biggest problem the Indian railway network faces is train overloading. In the the last 20 years, the Indian railways have begun carrying more than 15 times the traffic it used to on the same tracks. This train overloading, puts pressure on the tracks which are relatively unchanged. As a result, these tracks can be damaged. It is also an unfortunate fact that the Indian Railways is behind schedule in developing new technologies that could reduce risks in the network. The railways has to therefore work on its technology upgrade. There are also said to be about two lakh vacant posts in the railways with many of these in safety or operations. Low investments  and political interference are among the other challenges the Indian railway faces. There are thus systemic reasons why accidents continue to plague the railways. These have to be addressed and consistently eliminated to ensure that the railways has a hundred per cent accident free record.
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