Of late the papers have been flooded with accident ( or sabotage ) cases related to our Indian trains. I was just sitting and thinking about all the trains I’ve travelled on ( in India ) and how most of them have been involved in some of the worst accidents ( or blasts) in the country . Not on the days I’ve travelled on them, unlikely to be even the same rake – but still… . I now wonder – is it the case that I have travelled on a very unlucky sample set of trains and routes – or is it that pretty much all important trains in India have been involved in major accidents ?
Just for the record, here are the trains I’ve travelled on – and the accidents/sabotage cases related to them. It is a very “jinxed” record for sure.
[ Delhi - Pune/Ahmednagar trips, late-eighties and early nineties]
Jhelum Express : Major bomb blast in Jhelum Express in 1997. http://www.railissues.info/bomb-kills-12-on-indian-train
New Delhi – Bangalore Karnataka Express :
1989 April 18th. India, Uttar Pradesh, near Lalitpur: Karnataka Express derailed; at least 75 people died.
1991 October 31st. India, Karnataka, near Makaligurga: Karnataka Express derailed; 30 people died.
28 July 1997: Twelve people killed in a collision involving Karnataka Expressand Himsagar Express near Faridabad on the outskirts of Delhi.
[ Delhi - Mumbai , 1996/97 ] Frontier / Golden Temple Mail
Nov 26, 1998: Over 200 people die as Jammu Tawi-Sealdah Express rams into three derailed bogies of Amritsar-bound Frontier Golden Temple Mail near Ludhiana in Punjab.
May 15, 2003: 38 Killed in Frontier Mail Fire.
Mumbai Rajdhani, Mumbai – AK – Rajdhani
No disaster thankfully.
[ New Delhi - Howrah/Kharagpur, 2001 - 2006 ]
Those were the days when seventeen hour journeys had to be made six to eight times a year. The life of a college student on a shoestring budget … air travel was out of question.
Calcutta Rajdhani Exp. Lots of trips and memories on this train. Both my first and last journeys to/from KGP were on this.
Involved in a major accident( or sabotage ) case, derailed and fell off a bridge – estimated toll around 200.
BBS Rajdhani Express. No accident- but this train has the dubious distinction of being the first Indian train to be hijacked by Maoists, near Kharagpur.
This was the train I travelled on, for more than half of my trips to/from college. After a lot of delay ( and laziness) the ticket would be bought just a week before I had to travel. It would invariably be a <nice big> wait listed number. And then, it would magically get confirmed a few hours before departure and I would board an almost empty coach most of the time. I used to always wonder what kind of logic or manipulation was going on in the computerized railway system.
Purushottam Express : Made a few trips on this. I think took much more time to reach Delhi/Ghaziabad than the other trains.
This had its own terrible rail disaster somewhere in the mid-nineties.
20 Augus1995: Firozabad rail disaster, 358 killed as Delhi-bound Purushottam Express rams into the stationary Kalindi Express near Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh.
Long distance train journeys came to an end once I passed out of college; except for one trip when I left Mumbai and was coming back with a lot of luggage – and almost missed this train . And there have been a couple of instances where I booked a train ticket and ended up being unable to board the train, but those have been shorter journeys :-)
Anyway, coming back to the Railway Accidents I think this is one ministry which needs to be headed by a technically aware person who has some idea of safety standards, modern instrumentation and also has idea about the kind of high speed railways and maglev trains which Japan, China, EuroZone etc have developed. For safety, just as much as the trains it is also the track which matters. Importing LHB coaches from Germany and running them at 150 kmph on railway tracks which are poorly designed and maintained ; is recipe for disaster.
The average ignorant voter will applaud Lalu Yadav for turning around the railway in terms of profit but any reasonably informed person will be aghast at the (increased) frequency at which trains run on certain key routes – which makes it impossible for the tracks to get their scheduled periodic maintenance. What a way to double rail traffic without laying more parallel tracks – at the cost of hundreds of lives. Double lines have been only double – for decades now.
Given that railways are so important for India someone should make sure technically qualified or aware people get those posts and definitely not people like Lalu, Mamta , ……….< pretty much everyone who had the ministry> who are best left to take care of the flower and vegetable gardens in Rashtrapati Bhavan . I was about to add Nitish to the list of prospective gardeners as well when I remembered he’s taking decent care of Bihar :-)
Do you see the correlation between the increased frequency of trains in the Eastern Section ( Delhi – Howrah ) , the place9s) of origin of successive railway ministers and the rate of increase of accidents on this line ? I do.