Bengal train tragedy: No lessons learnt from 2023 Odisha mishap - The Tribune India

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Bengal train tragedy

No lessons learnt from 2023 Odisha mishap

Bengal train tragedy


A year after India witnessed one of its worst rail disasters — a collision involving Coromandel Express and two other trains in Odisha’s Balasore district had claimed over 290 lives — nine persons were killed and over 40 were injured after a goods train rammed into the stationary Sealdah-bound Kanchanjunga Express in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district. The deceased included the pilot and co-pilot of the goods train. According to reports, the automatic signalling system between the Ranipatra railway station and the Chattar Hat junction had been defective since 5.50 am — around three hours before the mishap happened. Railway Board chairperson Jaya Varma Sinha has stated that the collision happened because the goods train disregarded the signal. As usual, an inquiry is underway to identify the lapses and fix accountability, while the Centre has announced Rs 10 lakh each for the kin of the deceased.

The Balasore tragedy had raised hopes that lessons would be learnt in order to prevent or minimise rail mishaps. However, the situation on the ground doesn’t seem to have changed. In October last year, a collision between two passenger trains on the Howrah-Chennai line in Andhra Pradesh’s Vizianagaram district had claimed 14 lives; in February this year, a freight train ran driverless for about 70 km from Kathua (Jammu) to Dasuya (Punjab) — it was just a stroke of luck that no major accident happened.

The spotlight is back on Kavach, the ‘train collision avoidance’ system aimed at preventing accidents due to human error. It is being implemented in a phased manner, but the pace of route coverage is rather slow – in stark contrast to the government’s emphasis on speed on the rail tracks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida have pledged to expedite the bullet train project, but the Bengal mishap has shown that safety must take precedence over the glitz and glamour of ultra-fast trains.


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