Protecting passengers on India’s next-gen network

By Chris Lo

Whether by derailments, collisions or level crossing incidents, around 15,000 people die every year on India’s creaking railways.

But with stretched resources, organisational incoherence and 65,000km of ageing track to make safe, does the country’s new government stand a chance of cutting this unacceptable death toll?

In the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s general election triumph in May 2014, India’s railways have found themselves bearing the weight of unusual expectation.

India’s massive and somewhat rickety rail system has often been described as “the lifeline of the nation”, but Modi’s administration has placed a particular emphasis on making the country’s railways faster, more reliable and more profitable, and has specifically linked the health of the rail system to the wider prospects of India’s economy.

“The railway system in our country, people have not paid attention to that,” Modi said during a talk at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York. “But there is nothing bigger than this for economic development.

This is the second-largest railway line in the world.” President Pranab Mukherjee has been equally emphatic about the importance of rail improvements, noting in the wake of Modi’s election victory that “modernisation and revamping of railways is on top of the infrastructure agenda”. More info

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