Human waste, passenger load jeopardising railway safety, says Ashwani Lohani
Around 15% of India’s 66,500-km railway track network requires urgent repair, chairman of the Railway Board Ashwani Lohani said on Sunday, blaming corrosion from human waste and increasing dust pollution for frequent track fractures that ultimately lead to derailments.
Lohani, who took charge in August, told HT in an interview that maintenance of railway tracks was his main focus area at the moment. He said that over 5,000 km of tracks, or nearly 7.5 per cent of the entire network would be replaced by next year to prevent accidents.
“There is an urgent requirement of deep screening of at least 10,000 km of track. We have taken it on priority. Over 5,000 km of track will be replaced by next year,” Lohani said.
The total railway track network across the country is 66,687 km.
Lohani said that open defecation along railway tracks was also one of the major reasons behind decay of railway lines and the department needed to protect tracks from unauthorised entry.
“More passengers means more human waste on the tracks. Railway tracks need space to take the load and maintain their springy nature. Due to the blockage by waste and dust, the tracks gets stuck, leading to fractures,” said Lohani, whose previous assignment was as chairman and managing director of Air India.
Railway records show that passenger traffic has increased by 1700% since Independence, and freight traffic has increased by 1500%. The network of tracks, which spans 66,687 km across the country, has only expanded by 35% during this period.
In 2007, the railways operated 2,077 passenger trains, which increased by 67% to 3,482 in 2016. Over this period, 3,355 km of tracks, or just 5.30%, were added.
Lohani said higher traffic was leading to greater load on infrastructure.
“The maintenance team requires block time, which they are not able to get due to busy schedules. We have now said that requests from maintenance teams cannot be ignored in any circumstances,” he said.
There were 43 railway accidents recorded in the country this year until October 31. Of these, 32 were derailments.