<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Railway Ministry officials believe that prima facie cause of the accident of the Indore-Patna Express near Kanpur on Sunday could be ‘track fracture’ or in simple words breaking of a track. The grim part is that with Railways running more trains every year, the chances of more tracks developing such fractures cannot be ruled out. The need for track renewal is now imperative, these officials pointed out.This frenzy to run more trains is also taking a toll on the tracks. “The life of a track is evaluated by something called the Gross Million Tons which is the total weight- of train, passenger, freight- that has gone over the tracks. The maximum weight a track can manage in its entire lifetime is between 550 GMT—if it is 52kg standard rails- or 800 GMT if it is 60kg standard rails. Using a track beyond this limit is an open invitation to disaster,” said a senior Railway official.Statistics available with the Railway Ministry show that over the last two years, it ran a whopping 70,000 special trains. Moreover, during this period it introduced 308 new trains, extended 99 trains, increased the frequency per week (fpw) of 188 trains and permanently added 1,610 coaches to various trains. The Railways ran a little over 2.5 lakh extra coach trips in the past two years, ministry data shows.“All this adds berths to our system but also takes a heavy toll on tracks. The result could be track fractures and disasters like the one we are seeing in Kanpur. However, it is too early to say what caused the accident and only a full-level inquiry will tell us the truth,” said an official.A White Paper on the Railways health released by the government in February 2015 had a worrying fact on the status of track renewals. The report stated that out of the Railway’s total track length of 1,14,907 kms, about 4,500 km of track need to be renewed annually. However, due to financial constraints, the progress in track renewals is constantly coming down over the last six years, the white paper said. Arrears of track renewal are accumulating which will result in disproportionately high maintenance effort. This will also result in reduced reliability of assets, the White Paper noted.In a statement issued recently, the Railways said that 5,900 km of track renewal had been sanctioned, out of which 2,668 km is targeted for the year 2016-17 itself. Budget outlay in year 2016-17 has been enhanced from Rs 4,000 crore to Rs 7,500 crore to speed up the track renewal works in the country. Accordingly, physical targets have also been increased from 1,500 km to 2,668 km, the statement added.“As per norms, track renewal works are to be completed within two to three years of sanction,” said an official.It was in 2001-02 that a Special Railway Safety Fund (SRSF), with a corpus of Rs 17,000 crore was formed on the recommendation of the Railway Safety Review Committee. About 45 per cent of this fund was earmarked for track renewal.In March this year, while answering a query on track renewal, Minister of State for Railways, Manoj Sinha told Parliament that works of Track Renewal and Upgradation and a host of other activities like bridge rehabilitation and improvement in trains would cost Rs 1,19,183 crore at current price level.
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