150 killed in railway accidents in past five years

Published: July 14, 2019
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Pakistani security officials and local residents gather beside a train wreckage following a crash in Lahore on August 30, 2011. At least two people were killed and 17 others wounded, five of them critically, when two trains collided in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore. Train travel is popular among Pakistan's poorer classes, but the railways have been hit by a severe funding shortfall and a lack of barriers at most level crossings are a frequent cause of small accidents. PHOTO : AFP

Pakistani security officials and local residents gather beside a train wreckage following a crash in Lahore on August 30, 2011. At least two people were killed and 17 others wounded, five of them critically, when two trains collided in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore. Train travel is popular among Pakistan's poorer classes, but the railways have been hit by a severe funding shortfall and a lack of barriers at most level crossings are a frequent cause of small accidents. PHOTO : AFP

ISLAMABAD: The substandard and faulty signal system installed on much of the 150-year-old railway network of Pakistan has been cited as the cause in an increasing number of train accidents.

During the past five years, a total of 384 train accidents took place in which over 150 people lost their lives. At least 74 train accidents occurred in 2018, of which inquiries into 54 have been completed, while the other 20 are still being investigated.

According to the reports, obsolete railway tracks, faulty signal system and heavy loads have been cited as factors in most of these incidents.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government has also failed to make significant improvements in the state of affairs at Pakistan Railways, as the ML-1 railway track has completed 55 per cent of its life, while ML-2 and ML-3 have surpassed 82 per cent and 80 per cent of their usable lives, respectively.

Pakistan Railways reports, available with The Express Tribune, say the rail carrier encountered a total of 384 train accidents during the past six years in which over 150 people lost their lives. In 2018 alone, Pakistan Railways witnessed 74 incidents, of which 13 were major and 61 were minor.

The major ones included eight fires, three accidents that occurred at level crossings, and one passenger train colliding with a cargo train. The minor incidents affected 28 passenger trains and 33 cargo trains.

The report further states that Pakistan Railways registered 13 cases relating to the serious incidents and issued 24 show cause notices against staffers and other officials responsible for the tragedies, with a total of 34 people being apprehended and jailed.

The report shows that Pakistan Railways suffered 89 incidents in 2014-15, 76 incidents during 2015-16, 78 incidents during 2016-17 and 67 incidents during 2017-18.

The increased number of significant incidents during the past one month has again raised questions about Pakistan Railways. But according to railway officials, these incidents did not take place due to technical faults, but rather due to human error and negligence.

ML-1 is considered as the lifeline of Pakistan Railways, they said, while admitting that the railway track has depreciated by 55 per cent, due to which increasing issues are being faced.

The report further states that Pakistan Railway has estimated the upgrading project cost for ML-1 in excess of Rs324 billion, of which Rs4.5 billion have been earmarked in the current year’s budget.

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