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Topic : Indian Railways: Lifeline with Safety Concerns
GS-2 Mains  : Economy
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Indian Railway Network

  • One of the largest rail networks globally, spanning over 67,000 kilometers.
  • Connects every corner of the country, serving as a vital transportation mode for millions.

Train Accident Statistics

  • An average of 44 consequential train accidents occurred annually in the five-year period ending 2022-23 (FY23).
  • Despite advancements, these accidents continue to impact passengers, infrastructure, and the economy.

Types of Train Accidents

  • Derailments (most common): Caused by track defects, equipment failures, human error, or sabotage.
  • Collisions: Occur when trains collide on the same track due to signal failures or communication errors.
  • Level Crossing Accidents: Involve collisions between trains and vehicles/pedestrians at crossings, highlighting a need for improved safety measures.

India’s Worst Train Disasters

  • 2024: Kanchanjunga Express accident near Rangapani station (Katihar Railway Division).
  • 2023: Coromandel Express triple train crash in Balasore after hitting Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express (over 300 deaths).
  • 2016: Indore-Patna Express derails in Uttar Pradesh (146 deaths).
  • 2010: Train derails and crashes into a freight train near Kolkata (146 deaths).
  • 2002: Luxury Rajdhani Express plunges into the Dhabi river (at least 120 deaths).
  • 1999: Train collision in Gaisal, West Bengal (285 deaths).
  • 1998: Sealdah Express collides with a derailed train in Punjab (at least 210 deaths).
  • 1995: Train collision near Agra (over 300 deaths).
  • 1981: India’s deadliest rail accident (over 800 deaths) – train derails in Bihar and plunges into a river.

Safety Concerns

  • The high frequency of train accidents raises concerns about safety measures in place.
  • Different accident types highlight the need for improvements in various areas:
    • Track maintenance to reduce derailments.
    • Signaling systems and communication protocols to prevent collisions.
    • Level crossing safety measures to minimize accidents at crossings.

Impacts of Train Accidents

  • Beyond casualties and injuries, accidents disrupt operations, causing delays, cancellations, and financial losses.
  • Public trust in train safety erodes, affecting ridership and confidence.
  • Infrastructure damage, compensation payouts, and safety upgrades incur substantial economic costs.
  • Disruptions to freight transport impact supply chains and logistics.

Challenges to Safety

  • The vast railway network makes monitoring and maintaining every track section difficult.
  • Overcrowded trains, inadequate maintenance, and human error pose safety threats.

Safety Initiatives

  • Indian Railways implements measures such as:
    • Regular track inspections
    • Modern signaling systems
    • Train collision avoidance systems (TCAS)
  • Following a deadly collision in Balasore, Odisha (2023), the Supreme Court mandated the following:
    • Implementation of the Kavach automatic train protection system
    • A detailed plan to improve railway safety
    • Expert evaluation and system enhancements

Moving Forward

  • Continued investment is needed in:
    • Upgrading tracks, signaling systems, and rolling stock
    • Training railway staff and improving adherence to safety protocols
  • Leveraging technology for real-time monitoring and response.
  • Public awareness campaigns on railway safety, especially at level crossings.
  • Improved coordination among government, railways, and the public.
  • Research on innovative safety technologies suited to Indian conditions.

The Kavach System

  • Kavach is an indigenously developed Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system designed to:
    • Prevent trains from passing red signals.
    • Automatically activate brakes if drivers fail to control train speed.
    • Prevent collisions between Kavach-equipped locomotives.


India’s growing demand for safe and reliable rail transport necessitates evolving safety measures. By investing in infrastructure, technology, and public awareness, Indian Railways can ensure passenger safety and the continued viability of the railway system.

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