After 1,000 deaths in 6 years, NITI Aayog proposes railway safety authority

Eight coaches of Meerut-Lucknow Rajya Rani Express derail near Rampur. File photo
At a time when there has been a 97.5 per cent increase in the number of causalities due to railway accidents, from 122 in 2015-16 to 241 in 2016-17, a report by NITI Aayog has suggested the setting up of a new statutory independent outfit, the "Railway Safety Authority", to improve the safety situation of Indian railways.

"This is broadly in line with global best practices where railway systems prepare a systematic analysis of the safety risks faced and the set of measures needed to mitigate the risks. The independent safety authority reviews and approves the safety case and oversees its implementation," the report said. The report titled "Fund Deployment Framework for Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK)" also asked the ministry of railways to redesign train timetables in such a manner that sufficient margin is available for daily safety checks.

The government has lined up Rs 1.19 lakh crore under the RRSK for five years. For the financial year (FY) 2017-18, RRSK is being proposed to fund about 37 per cent of safety works planned by the ministry of railways. Out of the total Rs 53,000 crore to be used for safety purposes in 2017-18, Rs 20,000 crore will be coming from RRSK.

For the current FY, the major outgo from RRSK will be for traffic facilities – yard remodelling and others (Rs 3,085 crore), rolling stock (Rs 1,731 crore), road level crossings (Rs 705 crore), road over and under bridges (Rs 4,512 crore), and track renewals (Rs 9,961 crore). According to railway ministry data, over a six-year period from 2012-13 to 2016-17, a total of 586 accidents took place on the Indian Railways network. These accidents led to 1,011 casualties and left 1,634 people injured.

Interestingly, derailments accounted for more than 50 per cent of the total accidents, while level crossing related accidents (on both manned and unmanned crossings) accounted for about another 40 per cent. The idea of setting up of a safety authority was first mooted by a high-level safety review committee headed by Dr Kakodkar in 2011.  

Under the strategy outlined by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, the railways is set to eliminate all unmanned level crossings on its broad gauge network by 2020. Targeting zero accidents, an overall investment of about Rs 1,54,000 crore will be made, of which funding of around Rs 1,19,000 crore was proposed to be met through RRSK. The remaining Rs 35,000 crore was supposed to be sourced by railways from its own sources.

The Narendra Modi government had recently cleared the proposal to set up a rail regulator called the Rail Development Authority (RDA). The RDA will take decisions regarding tariff determination, ensuring fair play and level playing field for stakeholder investment in the railways, setting efficiency and performance standards, and dissemination of information. 

RRSK funding structure for 2017-18 (Rs crore)

Budgetary support 5,000
Transfer from DRF 4,000
Transfer from Railway Safety Fund  10,000
Ministry of railways' internal resources 1,000
Total  20,000

 


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