Train Accidents: Causes and Safety Measure

The Indian Railway is the world’s third-largest network, transporting 18 million people each day to their destinations. Every day, almost 16,000 trains pass across the railway tracks, and train collisions are a typical occurrence on Indian railways.

According to train accident records, derailments and railway crossings generate significant accidents. Until recently, crossings were open, and most incidents incorporated human error as the cause.

The Indian Railways do not have enough money to invest, and the annual accident rate is around 300, which is extremely high and requires immediate care. Though derailment and collisions have decreased significantly, human error and fire continue to be a hazard.

The Indian Railways has its disaster management plan to deal with rail catastrophes in all phases, including before, during, and after the disaster. However, railway safety results from all of these factors working together.

Consequences of train accidents include loss of human life or injury, damage to railway property, or disruptions in rail traffic that exceed established threshold levels and values. The growing population demanded more trains and increased the frequency of existing trains, resulting in an imbalanced increase in rail traffic over several years, putting immense pressure on rail tracks and exceeding the ‘safe’ limit.

What is Causing Frequent Train Accidents in India?

The accidents have focused attention on weaknesses in the Indian Railways, with reports indicating that train derailment was the major cause of train accidents in India during the last decade.

According to a report published to the Lok Sabha by the Standing Committee on Railways in December 2016, derailments were the primary cause of train accidents in India from 2003 to 2016, killing 511 people. The most common cause of train accidents appears to be a derailment. However, the Railway Ministry’s 2015 and 2016 show other derailments in 2014.

As a result, according to the 2016 report, the number of derailments in 2015 was higher than in 2014. It raises another concern of disparity in government records.

While a human mistake gets listed as the major cause of these incidents in the reports, there is disagreement over the number of instances the error resulted in catastrophe.

  • Failures on the railway crew were the primary cause of these incidents. According to Firstpost, most incidents involved negligence, shortcuts, and a disregard for safety laws and procedures.
  • China has expressed its displeasure at India’s reported remarks by General Bipin Rawat. According to the report’s statistics:

    • 90 people died due to the derailment,
    • 8 as a result of the collision,
    • 12 as a result of manned level crossing accidents,
    • 41 as a result of train fire, and
    • 5 as a result of other causes.
  • Unmanned level crossings (UMLCs) continue to be one of the leading causes of rail accident fatalities. There are 14,440 UMLCs on the railway network right now. UMLCs were responsible for roughly 40% of accidents in 2014-15 and about 28% in 2015-16.
  • Between 2010 and 2013, the ministry did not fulfil its goal of eliminating UMLCs. In addition, in 2014-15, the goal of eliminating UMLCs was cut by roughly half. According to the Standing Committee on Railways, audio-visual signs should be installed at level crossings to notify road users of approaching trains.

    Approaching Train Warning Systems and Train Actuated Warning Systems are two examples. All unattended level crossings on broad gauge railways would be eliminated by 2020, according to the Union Budget 2017-18.

    When the Standing Committee on Railways looked into the safety and security of the railways, it found that more than half of the incidents occurred by human error. Such shortcomings are carelessness, bad maintenance work, shortcuts, and failure to follow established safety regulations and procedures. The committee has recommended regular refresher training for each category of railway staff.

  • Accidents can also occur due to signalling failures, which are the fault of loco-pilots (train operators). With increased train traffic, loco-pilots are confronted with a signal every kilometre and must maintain a high level of alertness.
  • Furthermore, loco-pilots now have no technological assistance, so they must keep a close eye on the signal and adjust the train accordingly. Loco-pilots are likewise overworked because they must work over their contracted hours. This work stress and tiredness endangers the lives of thousands of commuters and jeopardises train operations.
  • The train coaches aren’t all brand new. Some of them got built at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF), and they’re known for piling up when they collide. Linke Hoffman Busch (LHB) coaches made of stainless steel are more effective at shock absorption and preventing derailment.

Major Train Accidents in India

Travelling by train is riskier than it is comfortable nowadays; we will try to learn about some deadly railway mishaps; train accidents have resulted in many deaths in India. These mishaps are not only unlucky but also distressing.

When there are many accidents, the Railway Department of India faces a significant challenge because rail transportation is one of India’s most important modes of transportation and should be safe.

  • Bihar Train Accident tops the charts with a death toll ranging between 500-800. On 6th June 1981, Near Saharsa, Bihar, the incident took place, a passenger train derailed and sank in the Bagmati River. Over 800 people were said to have died in total. It was one of India’s and the world’s most dangerous train accidents. According to some news outlets, a hurricane caused the catastrophe, while others claim the cause was flash flooding. The train plunged into the river with quick braking when the animal approached the bridge as the heavy driver rained.
  • On August 20, 1995, the Purushottam Express, which runs between Delhi and Kanpur, collided with the stationary Kalindi Express near Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh, killing around 360 passengers on both trains. Some news outlets blamed the occurrence on a human error. After the animal died, the brake on the Kalindi Express became blocked, and the train came to a halt on the track. In addition, the Purushottam Express got permitted to use the same track. The disaster was caused by the Purushottam Express colliding with the Kalindi Express from behind. The death toll raised to 358
  • Talking about train accidents, one cannot forget the unfortunate collision of Awadh–Assam Express and Brahmaputra Mail. The Awadh-Assam Express and the Brahmaputra Mail collided in Awadh, Katihar Division of the North Frontier Railway, killing 268 people and injuring over 359 others.
  • Several news outlets said that the Mail was transporting Indian troops and soldiers from Assam to the border. At the same time, the Awadh Assam Express was headed to Guwahati and stationed near Guslar.

    Due to signal failure, the Brahmaputra Mail got the green light to continue on the same track. As a result, the Awadh Assam Express was hit from the front around 1:30 a.m. By the power of the explosion, the engine of the Awadh Assam was flung high into the air, and passengers from both trains got hurled onto nearby homes and fields.

Some other major train accidents included Howrah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express on September 9, 2002, Gyaneshwari Express train derailment on May 28, 2010, and the list goes on and on.

According to the 2012 report of the High-Level Safety Review Committee, 1019 people died, and 2118 got injured in railway incidents in India between 2007–08 and October 2011.

In addition, 1600 railway employees lost their lives, and 8700 people were injured. According to the data, illegal trespassing kills roughly 15,000 people each year. Various factors, including fire, collisions, derailments, and unattended railway crossings, cause rail accidents.

According to train accident records, derailments and railway crossings generate significant accidents. Until recently, crossings were open, and most incidents were caused by human error.

The train’s speed is increasing thanks to modern technology, but it also necessitates robust safety measures to minimise train catastrophes and keep rail travel safe.

Steps Taken by Indian Railways to Reduce Train Accidents

The number of consequential train accidents has fallen from 118 in 2013-14 to 104 in 2016-17, 73 in 2017-18, and 59 in 2018-19, thanks to numerous significant initiatives taken by Indian Railways. These are the lowest figures ever recorded in Indian Railways’ history.

Indian Railways focuses on safety, and all reasonable measures are taken regularly to prevent accidents and improve passenger safety. To avoid accidents, the following steps/measures were taken: –

  • The Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) was launched in 2017-18 with Rs 1 lakh crore corpus for five years and an annual outlay of Rs 20000 crore for replacement, renewal, and upgrade of critical safety assets.
  • Modified Centre Buffer Couplers, Bogie Mounted Air Brake System (BMBS), enhanced suspension design, and provision of Automatic fire & smoke detection system in coaches have been implemented by Indian Railways to improve the safety aspects of coaches and waggons. Regularly, these improvements get included in freshly constructed coaches and wagons.
  • Security helpline number 182 has been activated on Indian Railways to provide security-related assistance to passengers in distress.
  • CCTV cameras are installed at around 394 stations across Indian Railways to maintain safety.
  • Railways communicate with passengers daily via social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to improve passenger security and answer their security concerns.
  • According to the statement, regular coordination is conducted with State Police/GRP authorities at all levels to prevent crime, register crimes, investigate, and maintain peace and order in Railway facilities and on moving trains.

Legal Provisions in Railway Accident

The liability of railways in the event of a train accident or death has always been a contentious issue. On May 9th, 2018, the Supreme Court of India resolved the case of Union of India vs Rina Devi. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that death or injury while boarding or deboarding a train constitutes an”untoward incident. “

Section 124A of the Railways Act of 1989 defines an”unwanted incident. ” So, according to Section 124A of The Railways Act, if an untoward incident occurs while the railways are in operation, the railway administration must compensate the victim or the victim’s dependent, regardless of whether or not the railway administration was negligent or made a mistake.

The Railways Act of 1989 provides compensation to the following individuals:

  • People involved in any type of railway accident, including rail derailment, low-level crossing (only those boarding the train), and rail-car collision.
  • Any person involved in a subsequent railway accident that causes injury or death to that person
  • Anyone who has been exposed to hazardous chemicals or involved in sabotage, terrorism, explosion, or fire

Certain people are not entitled to compensation under Section 124A of The Railways Act, and they are as follows:

  • If a person makes a deliberate attempt to kill themselves, this gets referred to as suicidal ideation.
  • Any self-inflicted injury.
  • Injuries caused by a person’s illegal act
  • An action done by someone who is intoxicated or insane

Section 125 of the Railways Act of 1989 allows a victim or dependent of a deceased person to apply for compensation and pay the prescribed fee.

The railway administration has increased the compensation amount. The Railways Act, 1989, as amended by the Indian government, includes such enhancements. Compensation has been paid twice for people who have suffered severe physical injuries or have died.

The initial compensation amount of Rs. 4 lakh got increased to Rs. 8 lakh under the Railway Accident and Untoward Incidents (Compensation) Amendment Rules, 2016 in cases involving the death of a passenger or the loss of a limb. The Railways Claim Tribunal will award compensation to the victim’s dependents who died or suffered severe injuries.

According to the official notification, if a person becomes blind, loses sight in one eye, or becomes deaf, he or she will be awarded Rs 8 lakh in compensation. According to the official notification released by the railway administration, a person is also granted the same amount of Rs 8 lakh if that person suffers from severe facial disfigurement. The amount for injuries ranges from Rs.32,000/- to Rs.8,00,000/-, depending on the nature of the injury sustained.

Some of the rights given to the claimants are the Right to Legal Representation and Free Legal-Aid.


Indian railways must get compared to the Shinkansen, a Japanese railway system that has carried millions of people without a single fatality since 1964.

Apart from depending on revenue from the railway’s internal generation, the government will require a significant investment programme to accomplish all of this. This investment will not only save lives, but it will also pay off handsomely in terms of GDP. It’s past time to reclassify railways as a”basic infrastructure supplier ” rather than a”commercial organisation. “

Hence, the transportation on which such a large number of people depends must ensure their safety. It is a need of the hour to look out the ways to prevent train accidents in India.

FAQ’s on Train Accident

Can I sue if I was injured in a train accident or at a railroad crossing?

Suppose you got injured in a train accident due to the carelessness of the train's operator, transport company, or another connected person. In that case, you might well get entitled to damages for your medical expenses, lost earnings, and misery and suffering.

How are runaway vehicles and out of control trains dealt with?

If trains pass dangerous signals, race through a station out of control, or move on block sections without authorisation to advance, the station master must notify the next station ahead of time.

What happens when the Alarm chain gets pulled in a coach?

The alarm chain in a passenger coach is designed to cause a break in the continuity of the brake pipes (whether vacuum or air brakes), resulting in a rapid loss of brake pressure (or vacuum) and the application of the train brakes.