The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), in its 2022 report on “Derailments in Indian Railways”, had flagged multiple shortcomings and made several recommendations, which included the suggestion to ensure strict adherence to the scheduled timelines for conducting and finalising accident inquiries.
The instances mentioned in the report were those which came to the CAG’s attention in the course of the test audit for the period April 2017 to March 2021, as well as those, which had come to its notice in earlier years, but could not be reported in the previous audit reports.
The focus of the audit was to ascertain whether measures to prevent derailments and collisions were clearly laid down and implemented by the Ministry of Railways. The auditors found that there were shortfalls ranging from 30-100% in inspections by track recording cars and idling of track machines owing to various reasons.
Highlighting the significance of timely inquiries, the report said that its main objective was to ascertain the cause of an accident and to formulate proposals for preventing their occurrence. “In the process it is ascertained if any inherent defect exists in the system of working or in the physical appliances, such as, tracks, rolling stock and other working apparatus. Measures for rectifying the defects and irregularities are then proposed based on the findings, it said.
“Analysis of 1129 ‘Inquiry Reports’ of derailment accidents in 16 Zonal Railways (ZRs) revealed 24 factors responsible for derailments in the selected cases/accidents. The total damages/loss of assets in these cases was reported as ₹32.96 crore,” said the report.
Also Read | Howrah-Chennai line has no Kavach system yet
While total 422 derailments were attributable to the Engineering Department, the major factor responsible for derailment was related to “maintenance of track” (171 cases), followed by “deviation of track parameters beyond permissible limits” (156 cases). In all, 182 derailments were attributable to the Mechanical Department and there were 154 accidents attributable to the loco pilots. “Bad driving/over speeding” was also a key factor.
The number of accidents attributable to the Operating Department was 275 and “incorrect setting of points and other mistakes in shunting operations” accounted for 84%. Of the 1,127 derailments during 2017-21, 289 were linked to track renewals.
The report had said that in 63% cases, the inquiry reports were not submitted to the accepting authority within the prescribed time schedule and in 49% cases, there was a delay in the acceptance of the reports by authorities. Besides, the overall expenditure on Priority-I works from the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) showed a declining trend from 81.55% in 2017-18 to 73.76% in 2019-20. The allotment of funds for track renewal works also went down from ₹9,607.65 crore (2018-19) to ₹7,417 crore in 2019-20. The funds were not fully utilised.
Based on its findings, the CAG had recommended development of a strong monitoring mechanism to ensure timely implementation of maintenance activities by adopting fully mechanised methods of track maintenance and improved technologies.
“Railway Administration must follow the ‘guiding principles for deployment of RRSK funds’ to avoid fund constraints in the area of Priority-I works. IR [Indian Railway] may prepare the ‘Detailed Outcome Framework’ for each item of safety work as per the indicative outcomes to gauge whether the benefits derived out of the RRSK funds are in conformity with the objectives behind the creation of the fund,” it had said.