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News Entry# 287119
Nov 29 2016 (16:39)  Indian Railways to form independent special investigation team for accidents (
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News Entry# 287119     
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In the wake of one of the deadliest train accidents—the derailment of the Indore-Patna Express on 20 November which claimed 150 lives—the Indian Railways plans to form an independent special investigation team (SIT) to investigate train accidents.
The national carrier at present has the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS), working under the administrative control of the ministry of civil aviation, which also deals with matters pertaining to safety of rail travel and train operation.
CRS is charged with certain statutory functions as laid down in the Railways Act, 1989, which are of an
inspectorial, investigatory and advisory in nature.
“We are thinking of forming a SIT which would include crime experts, railway experts and technology experts, among others. We can look at all possible angles. It would be an independent body, however, it is the mandate of the home ministry only to set up SITs,” said a senior official at the ministry of railways requesting anonymity.
Railways safety commissioner of the eastern circle, P.K. Acharya, has been appointed to investigate the cause of the train mishap on 20 November.
“Statutory inquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety into this accident has been ordered to determine the correct cause of the accident. There shall be separate comprehensive investigation aided by latest technical and forensic analysis by an appropriate agency to look into all possible angles. Strictest possible action would be taken against the guilty,” Union railway minister Suresh Prabhu had said in a suo moto statement in the Lok Sabha on 21 November.
The national carrier has come under criticism as an aftermath of the accident. In a special meeting called on 21 November, steps to improve safety were formulated which included increasing the use of ultrasonic flaw detection and introducing center buffer couplers in the existing Integral Coach Factory (ICF)-type coaches in place of screw coupling, among others.
“We are planning to make a concrete safety plan, see what is the technology required and where we are lagging behind, among others. We are drafting a very concrete action plan for safety,” said the official.
Queries emailed to the spokespersons of the ministry of railways on 24 November and ministry of home affairs on 25 November remained unanswered.
The minister of state for railways, Rajen Gohain, also held a safety review meeting on 25 November with representatives from six railway zones—East-Central Railway, Eastern-Railway, South-East-Central Railway, East-Coast Railway, North-East Frontier Railway and Southern Railway.
“These zones were identified for the review meeting as of late. There has been some concern about safety issues in these zones. More such reviews will follow later,” said a press statement issued by the ministry of railways.
According to the statement, Gohain called upon zonal railways to continue to give top priority to safety in railway operations and directed to conduct safety drives and regularly prepare time-bound action plan on safety matters.
The national carrier also plans to phase out ICF-designed coaches and stop production by 2017, as reported by InfraCircle on 25 November. The plan is to shift completely to German Linke Hofmann Busch coaches.
According to experts, the national carrier should aim to strengthen its existing safety structure.
“There is a commissioner for railway safety who is supposed to do the investigation but the CSR is not an empowered body. It investigates and gives report, but the report doesn’t necessarily implicate people in the sense of blame fixing responsibility or so. I hope the SIT looks into that. We should not be duplicating what we have. We should aim to strengthen what we already have,” said transport economist G. Raghram, who is also a professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad
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