This report tends to have an in depth view of the train crash incident that occurred with the Puri-Hardwar Express train near Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, India. The analysing for the feasible reasons why this accident took place have been highlighted in this report. Furthermore, the various issues and discrepancies in safety management that gives rise to these issue have been highlighted in detail also. In the end the policy changes and implementation changes that have been accomplished on the part of the Indian railway department after the incident have also been detailed.
Description of the incident
Reports confirms that a sever train crash in the state of Uttar Pradesh leaves twenty three dead and approximately 60 casualties. The incident occurred on 18th August of 2017. About 80 miles away from the state of Delhi, near Muzaffarnagar, the police reports confirmed that about 14 carriages of the train jumped of the tracks (Atkari et al. 2018). The intensity of the accident was so high that about 3 coaches climbed atop each other. This incident of a severe rail crash brought in open the inefficiency of the government of India to manage safety in railways.
Reasons for the Train Crash (Safety Breaches)
Indian Media and several eminent engineers of the country blames that the rail ministry of the Indian government have been constantly disregarding the issue of safety in the railways. Reports confirm that owing to the casual approach towards the safety management in railways, there have been a sinister occurrence of 83 accidents in the Indian railways over a span of 5 years from 2013 to 2018 (Dasgupta & Ghosh, 2015). Detailed analysis reveals that the major reason responsible for this train crash in Muzaffarnagar is the failure and the incompetency of the railway staff of the country. Issues like carelessness, non-alignment to safety rules and guidelines, adaptation to short cuts and other issues have been a regular matter for the railway staff. This train crash was caused due to derailment. The staff at a little station near Muzaffarnagar was extremely casual in their approach in checking alignment of the rail paths and checking status of each of the fish plates. As per the analysis of Dogan (2016), the improper checking was the reason why the staff could not detect that the main line in to which the train was supposed to shift after a sharp bend at Muzaffarnagar, was cut about one metre from the middle. Historical records of the train crashes that took place in India in the last two years conform that derailment have been a major cause of the train crashes in India.
A committee comprised by the senior railway officials and retired railway railways engineers in India was asked to enquire the safety mechanism through data analysis of the past accidents in the advent of the year 2016. The report confirmed that the casual approach and failure of railways maintenance staff is the major reason why cases of derailment have taken place in the country. Fifty to sixty percent of the train c rashes that have taken place in India have been cases of derailments.
The committee also detailed that asset failure have been one major reason for the accident that took away the lives of 23 innocents. Asset failure issues like defects in tracks causing out of rail fractures as well as inadequate maintenance have been enquired to have been the biggest causes of rail crashes in Indian tracks. Taking account of the aspects responsible for this rail crash, weld failure have also been identified as a major cause of the incident. Weld failures in Indian Railways, as Kulkarni et al. (2018), points out, have been the outcome of the backlogs rail and/or tracks renewals. At the time when the staff takes up the task of completing these backlogs, they forget the task of welding. The technology used in track welding have also been criticised by (Kumar, 2015). Technology up gradation immensely reduces the enhanced propensity to depend up on the manual worker’s intervention. Leena, Vidawat & Jha (2017), even put up the urge to exercise the automation of the Inspection works in Indian Railways. This is how the judgement errors like these which led to the occurrence of this incident can be efficiently reduced.
Graph 1: Figures showing how the cases of derailment have increased highly in Indian Railways in the last five years
(Source: Rizvi, Khan & Ahmad, 2017)
In fact statistics show that with the up surge of the cases of derailment, specifically, the casualties per train crash have also increased in Indian Railways.
Graph 2: The stats showing how the rate of casualties are increasing with the increase in cases of derailment in Indian Railways
(Source: Roy & Sukumar, 2016)
According to the views of Sharma et al. (2016), running live trains very urgently requires a subtle co-ordination as well as responsibility at multiple levels. As per the stats of the Railway Board of India, the Civil Directorate or the Engineering groups have the maximum liability at the time of occurrence of any case of derailment. However, the actual fact is that many railway departments have backlogs in their works and to conceal that they do not properly communicate with the Civil Directorate (Engineering).
The engineering department can be held responsible for 44% of the derailment cases that occurred within 2012 to 2013. The deficit of the engineering department of the Indian Railways is evident in the fact that during this time maximum derailments took place in broad gauge lines and for speed limit of average 160 kilometres per hour. The routes over which the crashes have taken place are all equipped with capacitance of over 100% utilisation. However since 2014, majority of the derailment accidents have taken place as a consequence of the failure by railway staff. Contrary to many others’ views, Singh, Sachdeva & Pal (2016), have opined that it is impossible to replace human factor so as the infrastructure of the Indian Railways is concerned, may however automation in safety control is introduced by the government of India for the safety of the passengers in trains. According to the opinion of Srivastava & Maurya (2017), the financial crunch that the Indian Government had faced in the fiscal year 2016 and 2017, is one major reason accountable for the train crash that is being disc used in this report. The debt incurred by running passenger trains in these two years was 33,000 Crore of INR and after that only small amount of money was left over with the Railways department for further modernisation or expansion of rail or gauges. Owing to dearth in funds, the maintenance have been compromised and working expenses have exceeded the development funds. Among the 64,000 kilometres of railway track in India, about 7000 kilometres requires thorough replacement (Warnan & Balamurugan, 2016). The condition is same with 40,000 railway coaches that are still being run with utter risk of technical disruption and fear of impending disaster.
In case if the Railway department of North East Railways had conducted the test for the railway tracks in proper time, this train crash would not have occurred at all. Since 2015, the Railways development Committee have brought over 52 proposals. Out of them only 19 have been accepted and rest rejected owing to the dearth of funds currently with the Indian Railways. Estimations of the annual budget of the Indian Government shows that for an all over development and refurbishment of the Indian Railways, the apprehended investment cost is INR I lakh Crore.
Changes in Policy and Practice after the incident
After the occurrence of this derailment disaster, the management of Indian Railways have taken a large step in revising their policies. The Safety Directorate of the Indian Railways have been made to incorporate a team of executive analysts who would be proactively involved in the audit of the ongoing operations in railway. Previously this safety department performed the passive role of being a data analysts only and thus the railway staff received the opportunity to become casual with their work (Leena, Vidawat & Jha, 2017). They cited their accomplishments in paperwork only, whereby accomplishing only about 50% of their work.
The Railway board made a formal declaration after the train crash that conventional ICF coaches would be used for the slower trains only and not for the superfast expresses. On the other hand decision was taken by the government that the production of the comparatively modern Hoffman Busch coaches would be aggravated. This coach have a seismographic and a supersonic meter that would be able to record any vibration and/or shrill or abnormal sound that is produced when the engine runs over the rail with a speed over 80 kilometres per hour. A forensic probe for research regarding what else safety breaches could be the causative agents for the train crashes is also declared at the press conference after the severe train crash near Muzaffarnagar.
The team of analysts and railway engineers formed to scrutinise this train crash incident came up with another strategic report that the number of level crossings in important rail tracks are significantly less and because of this a number of accidents have taken place in the North Eastern railway tracks (Dasgupta & Ghosh, 2015). The issue of rail fracture which have been supposed as the most feasible reason for this train crash was also addressed by the Rail minister at the press conference after the train crash. The minister assured that the ultrasonic devices that were implanted on the railway racks would be synced with the new detection meters that would be installed in the coaches. The engineering department of the Indian Railways supposed that this this technology could proficiently reduce about 75% of the incidents of train crashes that occurred all over India.
Analysing the consequences and the probable scope of the train crash in Uttar Pradesh, it can be concluded that both staff failure and rail fracture are equally responsible for the cause of this accident. Moreover the Safety management department and the Engineering Department of Indian Railways are also equally blemish. The passive role that he safety department by involving in mere paper analysis of accomplished safety standards have been the root of the complacency showed by the railway staff over the years. Because of this the rail tracks have become more risk prone and the number of cases of train derailment have increased over the years also.
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