At least 288 people have been killed in a train crash and derailment in eastern India, which has shocked India. Analysts say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has worked hard to modernize the railways, but it is not enough to solve the problem of chronic obsolescence of Indian railways.
According to Indian media and foreign media such as NDTV, two passenger trains and a freight train collided near Bahanga Bazaar Station in Balasore, about 170 km from Bhubaneswar, Odisha, eastern India, around 7:00 pm on the 2nd (local time) . an accident happened
First, the passenger train ‘Coromandel Express’, which was traveling at 130 km/h Shalimar in the north-east to Chennai in the south, collided with a stopped freight train and derailed. Then, some of the Coromandel Express carriages which had derailed in a collision with the Superfast Express traveling from West Bengaluru to North East Howrah.
Indian rescue authorities said at least 288 people were killed and more than 900 injured in the crash. It is the worst disaster since a train crash near New Delhi in 1995 that killed 358 people.
Authorities believe the accident occurred when the Coromandel Express failed to proceed on the main track due to a signal error and entered the wrong track where the freight train was located.
In India, with a population of 1.4 billion, railways are a key form of transport. Indian railways transport 13 million people a day, and the track length reaches 64,000 km, which is longer than the circumference of the earth (about 40,000 km).
India started building railways in the 19th century during British colonial rule, and the history of railways has reached 160 years. 98% of India’s railways were built between 1870 and 1930.
Accidents were frequent because the railway was getting old. By 2017, more than 100 people were killed in train accidents in India every year, according to The Observer, the weekend edition of The Guardian. In the last 20 years, there have been at least 13 accidents where more than 50 people have died.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been investing billions of dollars in railway modernization projects to address these problems. This year, India will inject a budget of 2.4 trillion rupees (about 38.2 trillion won), about 50% more than last year, to improve tracks, relieve congestion, and introduce new trains.
The Modi regime believes that rail safety has improved significantly in recent years as a result of the modernization of the rail industry. In fact, the number of train accidents fell from 139 in 2014-2015 to 55 in 2019-2020. In particular, in 2019 and 2020, there have been no deaths from train accidents for two consecutive years. On the 25th of last month, the semi-high speed electric train ‘Banderabat Express’ opened which connects New Delhi, the capital, and Dehradun, the northern capital of Uttarakhand.
The railway modernization project has become cold water as this accident happened in a week after the opening of the Banderabat Express, one of the key projects of the Modi regime, with more than 1,000 casualties. Prime Minister Modi originally planned to attend the inauguration ceremony of a new high-speed train connecting Goa and Mumbai on the 3rd, but the accident canceled the schedule.
There is a long way to go before basic measures to reduce train accidents, such as a derailment prevention system, are in place. Derailments accounted for 69% of 2017 rail accidents that occurred between 2017 and 2021. However, the automatic collision avoidance system, which is being promoted as part of the rail modernization project, only has a 2% installation rate so far in this. In particular, there is no place where an automatic collision avoidance system is installed in the section of the Eastern Railway where this accident occurred.
The Observer noted that safety concerns are increasing, such as a lack of sufficient personnel to support the growing demand for railways, and that the focus should be on solving safety concerns rather than modernizing railways.
Prime Minister Modi, who visited the site on the 3rd, the day after the accident, said, “Those found responsible for this accident will be severely punished.”