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Accident free trains or bullet trains in India - Discuss

Railway is perhaps the greatest legacy that British Empire left to India. An Engineering triumph perfectly matched to an epic task of feeding and serving the transportation needs of a sprawling country of more than a billion people. The largest single investment that was undertaken by British Imperial Regime in any colony i.e. Indian Railways is today the third largest rail network in the world. So it's quite obvious that handling such a massively successful organization that runs nearly 11,000 trains' daily carrying more than 22 million passengers a day on a track length of 42,000 miles to every part of subcontinent is no child's play. But still there has always been a black stain on such giant rail network which keeps tarnishing its image since a long time and that's "accidents and tragedies on tracks".

No doubt deadly train accidents these days rarely shock the collective consciousness of the masses, thanks to the monotonous phenomenon of the headline of mishap, deep regrets by railways administration, committees being set up to look into the cause, government's announcement of compensations for the families of victims and the life goes on till the next major accident. According to the stats of N.C.R.B. about 30,000 rail accidents occur every year in which over 25,000 lives are lost.

Reasons of these accidents have been found to be Collisions, Derailments, Level crossing accidents and fire in trains which means various causes of such deadly tragedies on tracks range from Human failure to equipment failure to Sabotage. But what's more ironical is the fact that majority of these accidents could have been averted had the Railways paid enough attention on revamping the creaking, aged, slow and overburdened system of rail network which has since long suffered due to increased demand and poor under-investment.

Now as we all know our country signed an MOU last year with Japan to give an official nod to a dream of distinctive, velocious, aerodynamically designed, punctual and safe Bullet trains that would criss-cross the country. Touted as a symbol of India leapfrogging into a new age, these trains several times faster than our traditional ones are believed to become the "Engine of economic growth". But dilemma that's still being faced is that, Should India really invests in bullet trains? Or should the focus be on up gradation of entire network to address alarming need of safety and reliability?

Well intellects and railway officials have already red-signaled the move speculating the crisis. Because for a country like ours with different demography, diverse culture and various needs bullet trains can surely prove to be the "white elephants "due to following reasons:-

  1. Installation Cost - Indian railways hardly earn to pay for itself so for such a cash-strapped organization hefty price tag of a multi-billion dollar investment is less cost-effective. (for ex- to lay just 1 km of track, estimated cost is 115 crore)
  2. Returns on investment - Elite class population is quite low in India but for the actual needy ones who are middle-class and abundant it can be a pocket issue.
  3. Airways- Why would people go for such trains if airways are doing the same job in nearly same fare and less time?

Can't we develop our own version of High speed rails to cater ourselves that would be in sync with our needs, demography, safety and economy instead of investing in a single import intensive project? No compensation can reciprocate the lives of people who brutally get killed and gruesomely injured in accidents each year. We definitely need "speed" but not in lieu of deaths, inconvenience, chaos and losses. So the transformation of existing system by adopting following means and making our system less accident prone is need of the hour.

  1. Strengthening old bridges, tracks to sustain higher speeds.
  2. Elimination of Level-Crossing, Providing Fences alongside tracks, Foot-Over Bridges and subways to stop trespassing.
  3. Filling of delayed and vacant safety posts like gang men, points men, and signalmen as soon as possible.
  4. Ceasing corruption faced in tenders of railways.
  5. Upgrading and creating many new jobs for our youth.

Sources reveal that China which is operating Bullet train since long is going to shut down service due to constant losses. Hope this doesn't happen with us in future and may our govt. succeed in driving away glimpses of frequent accidents, crammed coaches, poor infrastructure and careless behavior of employees.

- Shailendra Chauhan

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