Is the Indian Railways stretched beyond its capacity?

Context:  The Balasore district, Odisha train accident raised questions about safety, signaling, and overcrowding in the railway system. Challenges in Indian Railway:
  • Lack of sincerity and shortcomings in inspections and maintenance: The vastness of the Indian Railways system leads to occasional lapses in safety measures, such as inadequate inspections, improper maintenance, and lack of training among staff.
  • Inadequate signaling systems: Manual takeover of signaling during maintenance works can result in errors and increase the risk of accidents.
  • Overcrowding in general compartments: Overcrowded coaches, particularly in general compartments, pose challenges to passenger comfort and safety.
    • Overcrowding can lead to an increased risk of accidents and fatalities.
  • Balancing punctuality and safety: High-density routes face pressure to maintain punctuality, which can lead to limited time for block maintenance works on tracks.
    • Punctuality often takes precedence over safety in such cases.
Way Forward:
  • Strengthen safety systems through regular inspections and prompt addressing of shortcomings.
  • Accelerate implementation of safety measures like the anti-collision device (KAVACH).
  • Focus on track renewal and grade separation to improve safety and punctuality.
  • Conduct judicial probes for major accidents to ensure impartial investigations.
News Source: The Hindu

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