Challenges ahead of new railway minister Piyush Goyal

The safety issue is again staring at the railways following a spate of derailments

GN Bureau | September 4, 2017


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 New railway minister Piyush Goyal has his work cut out for him as he has to prioritise safety and restore confidence since the railways is going through a rough patch due to successive derailments.

Goyal’s appointment has come just ahead of the visit of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe to lay the foundation of high speed bullet train in Ahmedabad on September 13.
 
Railway board members are geared up to meet ambitious targets and challenges ahead of the Indian Railways, particularly safe operations, better freight and passenger revenue, doubling of tracks and electrification. 
 
Considering the fact that Goyal is having the charge of coal as well, there are hopes of having better synergy between the two ministries. Coal is the major source of revenue for the railways.
 
The biggest challenge in front of Goyal would be to ensure making railways safer, fill vacancies in the safety wing and hasten procurement of safety related equipment.
 
Average vacancy in safety positions during 2009-10 to 2013-14 was 18.65 percent of the total sanctioned strength which has dropped to mere 16.86 percent in 2017. 
 
The railways recruited 37,510 people in different safety categories, taking the total staff strength to 6,35,940 as on April 1, 2017.
General secretary, All India Railwaymen’s Federation, Shiv Gopal Mishra told Governance Now that despite the railways recruiting people, over one lakh safety vacancies are still lying vacant. 
 
A railway ministry data revealed as many as 421 people were killed in 857 derailments over the past 11 years between 2005-06 and 2015-16.
Derailments of the three express trains - Kalinga Utkal express, Kaifiyat express, Nagpur-Mumbai Duranto express - in the past 15 days in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra forced Suresh Prabhu to offer his resignation to prime minister Narendra Modi on August 23. Prabhu was asked to wait for the few days as the cabinet reshuffle was in the offing. 
 
It would be interesting to see how Goyal makes railway travel more safer and economical for the passengers.
 

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