Incidents of fire on board running trains and other ghastly train accidents has been a recurring phenomenon, not isolated, in Andhra Pradesh in the past two decades raising questions on whether the railway administration is learning lessons from each experience.
Officials, no doubt, claim that every possible precaution had been taken, but yet the recurrence.
The news of fire consuming 32 lives early on Monday morning aboard Chennai-bound Tamil Nadu Express, on its last leg of journey, has only amplified the apprehensions.
In June, 1990, 35 passengers were killed in a train accident at Gollaguda, while in October the same year, about 40 people were burnt to death when suspected naxalites torched a passenger train at Cherlapally on the city outskirts. Thirty five lives were lost four years later when the Narayanadri Express rammed into a tractor in Nalgonda district in May.
The Guntur-Secunderabad Golconda Express which derailed at Warangal station in July, 2003, left 21 persons dead while a mishap involving Repalle-Secunderabad Delta Passenger took over 100 lives when it plunged into an overflowing stream near Valigonda in Nalgonda district.
A particularly gory accident, that took 32 lives including that of a pregnant woman and three physically-challenged persons, was the one that occurred in a forest near Mahbubabad in Warangal district. It involved fire on board the Gautami Express in August, 2008. The fire that broke out in S-9, spread to four other coaches and the death toll was more because it took place in the wee hours, when most passengers were in deep sleep. The culprit was said to be a short circuit.
Most recently, in May this year, the Hubli-Bangalore, Hampi Express collided with a goods train near Penukonda in Andhra Pradesh early on Tuesday morning on its way from Hubli to Bangalore. Fourteen people were dead and 35 were injured in the collision. The accident happened at around 3:45 a.m. on Tuesday.
Whether it was a short circuit or a classic case of a passenger callously flicking a match after lighting a cigarette or any other reason, the fact remains that safety on board trains remains seriously lacking.