Second Train Derails in Odisha, Raising Concerns about Rail Safety

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In the aftermath of India’s deadliest rail crash in over two decades, where 275 people lost their lives in Balasore, Odisha, another train incident has occurred in the Bargarh area of Western Odisha, approximately 500 km away from the recent tragedy. This time, a goods train carrying limestone derailed within the premises of a private cement factory near Mendhapali in the Bargarh district. The East Coast Railway has clarified that the responsibility for this incident lies solely with the private cement company, emphasizing that the infrastructure and maintenance of the narrow gauge siding, including the rolling stock, engine, wagons, and train tracks, are the company’s responsibility.

Fortunately, no casualties have been reported, and only a few coaches were affected by the derailment. However, this incident has brought attention to pressing concerns surrounding track maintenance, staff shortages, and overall rail safety. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the nation’s top auditing body, highlighted these issues in a 2022 report on derailments in Indian Railways. The report shed light on shortcomings in inspections, the failure to submit or accept inquiry reports following accidents, the inadequate utilization of dedicated railway funds, a decline in funding for track renewal, and insufficient staffing in safety operations.

According to Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Balasore accident was attributed to an issue with the “electronic interlocking system.” Despite the recent tragedies, the first high-speed passenger train, the Howrah-Puri Vande Bharat Express, resumed operation and passed through Balasore on the restored tracks. Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw was present at the accident site and waved to the drivers as the semi-high-speed train passed through, signaling a symbolic gesture of confidence in the railway system.

As these incidents raise concerns about rail safety in India, it becomes crucial for the rail ministry to address the identified shortfalls, implement preventive measures to avoid derailments and collisions, and prioritize track maintenance, adequate staffing, and prompt investigation procedures. The focus should be on ensuring the safety of passengers and maintaining a robust railway infrastructure across the country.

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