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People Killed on Indian Railways (2003-12)

In what has started to become a macabre routine, another train derailed on Saturday killing 39. The incident happened in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh and the train involved was the Jagdalpur-Bhubaneshwar Express. Only 2 months ago, on November 20, 2016, the Indore-Rajendra Nagar Express derailed near Kanpur resulting in 150 deaths. A host of reasons is behind these accidents including poor and outdated infrastructure, an overburdened rail network, and lack of safety training. A combination of these and the fact that over 23 million Indians use the railways daily make the Indian Railways Network deadly.

Make no mistake, the railways are still 5X safer than roads. But the frequent accidents have resulted in a big toll over the years. You can see just how big in this week's chart. Per the Ministry of Railways, just over 4,000 people died on the railways in 2013- the latest year for which data is available. Deaths rose significantly from 2006 through 2009 and have somewhat steadied in recent years. Railway passengers are still a small minority (~5%) of the overall deaths. A large majority of unfortunate victims are on the tracks.

These accidents highlight the pressing need for modernization of Indian Railways. A major effort will not only help curb deadly accidents but will also improve affordable access for millions of city-bound Indians.