4,999 rail, welding fractures occurred during April 2012 to January 2013

You may well be skating on thin rail — riding rickety trains rattling through perilous alley. That is the kind of journey most of the two crore-plus rail passengers undertake, of course, unknowingly every day.

It is just a matter of bliss you reach your destination without a scratch, fatal accidents notwithstanding. If you came through this roller coaster ride then the entire credit goes to the dedicated railway staff.

There were 4,999 instances of rail and welding fractures during the 10-month period (April 2012 to January 2013) across the 64,000 route km network. There was a fracture of either nature every 13 km — this shows how thin the rails are.

While variation in temperature is one of the causes for fractures, there is no gainsaying the fact that the increasing number of passenger trains and heavy haul goods trains have been taking their toll on the rails. The timely detection and rectification of faults by committed gangmen is preventing accidents.

Maintenance has taken a back seat with little being allocated under the safety head. The number of rail fractures has marginally gone down though in comparison to the corresponding period of April 2011 and January 2012 when it was 5,123.

The worst part is the number of welding fractures has gone up from 3,206 to 3,236, exposing the callous work. The performance of locos, wagons and coaches has deteriorated. As many as 4,258 locomotives developed faults during these 10 months, up by over 3.45 per cent from the previous year when 4,116 locos suffered a breakdown.

The Railways operate about 7,000 passenger trains and over 12,000 goods trains. Every fifth train — passenger or goods — suffers a malfunction. And there are just about 9,500 diesel and electric locomotives, hence, every second engine failed while in operation.

During these 10 months, as many as 2,452 coaches and wagons developed defects, (6.5 per cent higher) against 2,301 coaches and wagons that suffered faults in the corresponding period in 2011 and 2012. Passenger trains comprise 55,000 coaches and goods trains 2.33 lakh wagons.

The failure of the signalling system is the worst among equipment failures. Signals failed 1.44 lakh times. But this figure is lower than the previous year when1.70 lakh breakdowns occurred in the rail network of 64,000 km. There was an error in the signalling system every 500 metres.

To improve things, the Railways need Rs. 1.1 lakh crore over the next five years and Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has gone on record saying that raising Rs. 20,000 crore annually is not feasible.

More than 90,000 safety-related posts, including those of gangmen, are lying vacant. The Minister has promised to fill all 1.42 lakh vacancies. The question is does the organisation has the money to take on the additional wages bill.

  • Timely detection and rectification of faults by gangmen is preventing accidents

  • Failure of the signalling system is the worst among equipment failures