As the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) found the existing system in probing accidents to be insufficient, the World Bank has recommended for an independent rail safety regulatory and investigator to be set up, for averting accidents. Taking serious note of the sudden spate of tragedies on tracks – in which Railways admitted that 66 of 105 serious rail accidents were caused due to lapses by its staff – the 73-year-old international financial institution has also asked for creating a dedicated safety management system under the railway board chairman for reinforcing the prevailing accident prevention measures.
In its detailed report prepared after a comprehensive study, the World Bank had also asked for creating an independent safety regulator and investigator as per the international practice, to fix responsibility and take preventive measures to curb mishaps. Also keeping stock of the poor maintenance of tracks – a major cause of the train accidents, the report also stressed upon the need for reviewing the timetables of the trains for timely maintenance of the tracks.
It has also suggested for acceleration in the community engagement programmes, to minimise pedestrian accidents by addressing human and other factors contributing to the unsafe behaviour. Since mishaps at unmanned level crossings are one of the major reasons for train accidents in India, the Railways had already undertaken steps to eliminate all such crossings by 2020 as part its ‘zero accident mission’. The report had further sought for the need to develop a safety culture across the network.
Outlining the full support of the staff as the need of the hour to tackle and avert any possibility of an accident, the report said that without their wholehearted support, implementation of any policy or plan would remain a mirage. It may be noted that at present, with a limited power and span of control, the CRS had been assigned to probe all the railway accidents in the country, despite the fact that CRS falls under the administrative control of the civil aviation ministry
Interestingly, CSR’s probe and findings had little role to question the rail operations as the Railway’s departmental inquiries after any accident have the final say in it. It may be recalled that former railway minister Suresh Prabhu, in April 2017, had hinted at outsourcing various international agencies for outlining safety measures.
The World Bank had also sought for modern equipment to detect rail fracture and paint of locomotives in bright yellow colour on the front to improve their visibility, particularly during the twilight times in the day. It has also asked to establish an emergency response plan to address derailments and fires.