Railway Reforms

Indian Railways and safety challenges


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level: The major challenges that Indian Railways face

Why in the news?

The turmoil has not subsided since the tragic accident involving the GFCJ container train, which, while travelling at high speed, collided with the 13174 Agartala-Sealdah Kanchanjunga Express, resulting in 11 deaths and approximately 40 injuries.

Indian Railways: Recent Issues

  • Tragic Accident: The GFCJ container train collided with the 13174 Agartala-Sealdah Kanchanjunga Express, causing 11 deaths and around 40 injuries.
  • Premature Conclusions: The Chairperson of the Railway Board prematurely blamed the container train crew and provided incorrect information about casualties.
  • Slow Rollout of Kavach System: Kavach, an indigenous signalling system to prevent collisions, has been slowly implemented due to limited industrial capacity.
  • Staffing Issues: Indian Railways is overstaffed but has critical vacancies in safety-sensitive positions, leading to stress and overwork for existing staff.
  • Ambiguous Protocols: Ambiguous rules for handling Automatic signal failures create confusion and increase the risk of accidents.

What are the major challenges that Indian Railways faces?  

  • Safety Concerns: Inadequate measures to prevent collisions and improve overall safety, despite technological advancements.
  • Staffing Shortages: Critical vacancies in essential roles such as loco pilots, train managers, and signal maintainers, lead to overworked staff.
  • Slow Technological Implementation: Delayed implementation of safety technologies like the Kavach system due to limited industrial capacity and lack of focus.
  • Ambiguous Safety Protocols: Poorly drafted rules and unclear protocols for handling signal failures and emergencies.
  • Managerial and Communication Issues: Premature conclusions and miscommunication by top management, undermine trust and effective crisis management.

What can be the solution?

  • Enhanced Safety Protocols: Strengthen and clarify protocols for Automatic signal failures and other emergency situations.
  • Accelerated Technology Adoption: Fast-track the implementation of safety technologies like the Kavach system, with targets of 4,000 to 5,000 km/year.
  • Increase Recruitment in Critical Areas: Fill vacancies in essential safety roles promptly to reduce stress and workload on existing staff.
  • Encourage Industrial Capacity Building: Support and incentivize allied industries to increase capacity for producing and implementing safety technologies.
  • AI-Enabled Safety Monitoring: Implement AI-enabled applications to analyze digital data from station loggers and train microprocessors for actionable safety insights.
  • Focus on Managerial Accountability: Ensure that managerial issues are thoroughly investigated and addressed to improve overall safety management.

Steps taken by the government:

  • The government has established the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK), a dedicated fund with a corpus of Rs. 1 lakh crore over 5 years, to finance critical safety asset replacement, renewal, and upgradation.
  • The government has implemented Electrical/Electronic Interlocking Systems at 6,427 stations as of May 2023, which centrally operate points and signals to eliminate human error-related accidents.

Conclusion: Strengthen and clarify safety protocols for handling signal failures and emergencies, ensuring clear guidelines and training for staff. Fast-track the implementation of safety technologies like the Kavach system, setting annual targets of 4,000 to 5,000 km to improve overall safety and prevent collisions.

Mains PYQ:

Q Why is Public Private Partnership (PPP) required in infrastructural projects? Examine the role of PPP model in the redevelopment of Railway Stations in India. (UPSC IAS/2022)

Get an IAS/IPS ranker as your 1: 1 personal mentor for UPSC 2024

Attend Now

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


Join us across Social Media platforms.

💥Mentorship New Batch Launch
💥Mentorship New Batch Launch