Decades of neglect is taking a toll on the Indian Railways, Chairman of the Railway Board Ashwani Lohani said on Sunday, two days after a derailment in Uttar Pradesh killed three passengers, PTI reported.
In a Facebook post on Saturday night, Lohani called the accident at Manikpur in Uttar Pradesh “a cause for concern”. “Huge accumulated deficit in upkeep of infrastructure, arising out of decades of neglect, is taking its toll,” he wrote. “Consolidation has to take priority over growth, and an action plan has to emerge very shortly.”
Over the weekend, seven people died and at least 11 were injured in four train accidents in less than 12 hours in Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. There were 43 railway accidents in the country till October 31 this year, the Hindustan Times reported. Of these, 32 were derailments.
Around 15% of India’s 66,500-km railway track network requires urgent repair, Lohani told the Hindustan Times on Sunday. He also blamed corrosion of the tracks from human waste and increasing dust pollution for the frequent derailments.
The Railway Board chairman said the country was looking to the railways to set its house in order, “but the fact is, it will take its time and may also extract its price”.
Lohani’s comments indicate that the railways may be considering slowing down a massive expansion plan that was pushed by former Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, The Times of India reported. Prabhu quit after the Utkal Express derailment in August, but had raised Rs 1.5 lakh crore to fund projects and building tracks, the report said.