In a bid to check the rising numbers of railway accidents, the NITI Aayog in a report has suggested setting up of an independent outfit, Railway Safety Authority.
There has been a 97.5 per cent rise in the number of casualities because of accidents between FY16 and FY17. In the last financial year, the number was 241; the previous year, it was 122. Between FY13 and FY17, there were 586 accidents — 1,011 people were killed and 1,634 people injured.
According to the report, “Fund Deployment Framework for Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh”, its suggestions were broadly in line with the best global practices. “Railway systems prepare a systematic analysis of the 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 has also asked the railway to restructure the timetable for trains so that sufficient interval was available for daily safety checks.
Starting FY18, the government plans to spend Rs 1.19 lakh crore under the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) over the next five years. This financial year, it would fund about 37 per cent of the annual budget — or nearly Rs 20,000 crore — for safety works proposed by the railway ministry.
Some of the major expenses would be yard remodelling and related works (Rs 3,085 crore), rolling stock (Rs 1,731 crore), level crossings (Rs 705 crore), overbridges and underbridges (Rs 4,512 crore), and track renewals (Rs 9,961 crore).
According to railway data, half the total accidents between FY13 and FY17 were caused by derailment and another 40 occurred at level crossing (manned and unmanned).
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has said there would no unmanned level crossings on the broad gauge network by 2020. To eliminate accidents, a total investment of Rs 1.54 lakh crore would be made. Of this, about Rs 1.19 lakh crore would be through the RRSK.
The central government has recently approved setting up a regulator, the Rail Development Authority (RDA), to will decide on tariff, ensure fair play and a level playing field for stakeholder investment in the railways, augmenting efficiency and performance standards, and dissemination of information.