Railways: Railway safety

Reasons for lack of railway safety
  • Lack of fire detection systems — in some trains, the fire alarm systems have been installed in air-conditioned coaches, while other compartments have been neglected. In open compartments, it is more difficult to detect smoke.
  • Lack of anti-collision technologies — these are devices that automatically halt the train if it overshoots a red signal — India, which has the world’s fourth-largest railway network after the U.S. China and Russia, still doesn’t have such safety devices. Such technologies could have helped prevent the 32 train collisions that took place in India since 2008, according to official figures.
  • Staff deficit — speeding and skipping red signals are the main causes of concern, human error is another common cause of accidents. The reason for this is partly that there is a shortage of staff, meaning that workers are often overworked.
  • Inappropriate maintenance of tracks — significant number of accidents in India are caused by derailments and for this derelict tracks are to be blamed.
Steps towards railway safety
  • Anil Kakodkar committee recommendations on railway safety:
    • The three vital functions of rulemaking, operations and the regulation are all vested in the Railway Board. There is need for an independent mechanism for safety regulation. Creation of a statutory Railway Safety Authority with enough powers to have a safety oversight on the operational mode of Railways would do the need.
    • The Research Design and Standards Organization (RDSO), the apex technical wing of the Railways, is highly constrained. This has hampered the ability of the system to internalize emerging technologies. Restructuring of RDSO for greater empowerment is the need of the hour.
    • The adoption of an Advanced Signaling System (akin to the European Train Control System) for the entire trunk route length of 19,000 km within 5 years.
    • All Level Crossings (both manned and unmanned) should be eliminated over a fixed period of time say five years.
    • Also a switch over from the ICF (Integral Coach Factory) design coaches to the much safer LHB(Linke Hofmann Busch) German design coaches.
Unmanned rail crossings:
  • Facts:
    • Safety at unmanned level crossings is a matter of concern for the Indian Railways as around 40% of accidents involving the railways happen in unmanned crossings.
    • India has a total 10,000 unmanned railway crossings in the country.
    • The railways has set a target for eliminating all the railway crossings in the next 2-3 years.
  • Steps taken:
    • ISRO’s satellite-based chips will be used to alert people at unmanned rail crossings.
    • The system will warn the road users by hooters once a train approaches an unmanned level. The hooters will get activated when the train is present at a distance of about 500 metres from the level crossing, warning both road users as well as the train driver near the crossing. The sound of the hooters will become louder as the level crossing nears, and finally it will become silent after the passage of the train.



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