In the last three years as many as 333 persons have lost their lives in 206 train derailments, government data showed on Friday. While in 2014-15 there were 135 accidents, the number was 107 in 2015-16 and 104 in 2016-17. For comparison, in 2013-14, six persons had lost their lives in 53 train derailments.
"The number of casualties in train accidents is essentially fortuitous and not strictly susceptible to comparison. The reason for the loss of lives is primarily on account of six major passenger train derailments in the past three financial years in 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17," Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu told the Rajya Sabha on Friday in reply to a question.
He said that two of these major derailments -- that of Indore-Rajendra Nagar Terminal on November 20, 2016, between Pokhrayan and Malasa stations and Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express on January 21, 2017, at Kuneru station -- are being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Statutory inquiry in these two cases has also been ordered to be conducted by the Commissioners of Railway Safety (CRS), he added.
The Minister said that to minimise the loss of lives in train accidents, modern technologies are being adopted and continuous efforts are being made "because of which number of consequential train accidents have continuously declined."
He said some decisions have been taken to prevent derailments such as the move to only manufacture Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches from 2018-19.
"LHB coaches are of a superior design that reduce the chances of derailment and mitigate the possibility of grievous injury or death in case of accidents. These coaches have superior body-bogie and wheel-bogie connections, anti-climbing features, tight lock coupling, provision of bump stop, superior braking, lesser chances of destabilization and tilting of the coach etc in case of accidents," he said in the reply.
Prabhu said that allocation for track renewal has been "almost doubled from the last five years' average of Rs 5,548.6 crore to Rs 9,961 crore in the Budget estimate of 2017-18."
"Ultrasonic Broken Rail Detection System (UBRDS) used by South African Railway for detection of rail/weld fractures is under trial on Northern and North Central Railways on 25 km track length each. This system works on principle of guided ultrasonic waves and interrogates continuously welded rail in sections up to one kilometre long using ultrasound waves, and reports breaks at time intervals down to a few minutes."
"This system will be proliferated initially to group 'A' routes followed by other important/high density routes of Indian Railways based on outcome of trial," Prabhu said.
Besides, he said, a fund called "Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh" (RRSK) has been created for financing critical safety related works.
"The fund has been created with a corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore over a period of five years. In Budget estimates of 2017-18, a provision of Rs 20,000 crore has been made under RRSK, which includes Rs 5000 crore from Budgetary support, Rs 10,000 crore from Central Road Fund and Rs 5000 crore out of Railways' internal resources," he said.
In a separate reply, Prabhu said that the government is not considering levying any safety cess on passengers.