In last four years, the two rail ministers — Lalu Prasad and Mamata Banerjee — between them announced more than 200 new trains.
The length of new line proposed in their budget speeches was 2,100 km. i.e a new train for every track built less than 10 km. That is taking a minimum of one rake for every train. There has also been extension of the existing rail routes and increase in frequency of trains.
All this added together had upped the pressure on the railway network. Even as the Ministry is announcing capacity increase through gauge conversion and doubling, experts say it is not enough to absorb the burden added every year.
“The political compulsion of adding new trains is exerting tremendous pressure on the ill- equipped rail network resulting in such mishaps,” an official in Railways Ministry admitted.
“When you add new trains without corresponding rail lines, the distance between trains decreases. The money we spend on improving the system is too low — hovering around two per cent of rail budget,” another official said.
Railways is reeling under a staff crunch and delays in implementation of new technology intelligent systems.
The Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) — an advanced signaling systems — was commissioned as a pilot in May 2008 on 50 km of Southern Railway and the second on 200 km Delhi-Agra section last year.
“High technology costs are a deterrent but that should not be a worry for a government to which human lives should be a concern,” a railway analyst said.
The Anti-Collision Device approved as pilot for North East Frontier Railway in 2000-01 was installed only in 2005-06. The Ministry only recently decided to go for an improved version for trial.