133 killed in Indian train crash as railway minister vows strict action against guilty

Indian Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu says the toll in the train derailment accident in the country’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh climbs to 133, and vows to take strict action against those found guilty.

NEW DELHI, INDIA (NOVEMBER 21, 2016) (LOK SABHA TV) – Indian Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Monday (November 21) said the toll in the train derailment accident in the country’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh climbed to 133, and vowed to take strict action against those found guilty.

The train, which was travelling between Patna and Indore, suddenly rolled off the tracks in Pukhrayan, 65 km south of Kanpur city.

The packed train, operated by the government, derailed in the early hours of Sunday (November 20), when most of the 500 passengers on board were asleep.

Sunday’s derailment in Uttar Pradesh was India’s deadliest train crash since 2010 and has renewed concern about the poor safety standard of the state-run network, which is a lifeline for millions of Indians but has suffered from chronic underinvestment.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu made a statement in the lower house of Indian Parliament, Lok Sabha, in New Delhi regarding the tragedy.

“Fourteen coaches of the train derailed between Pukhrayan and Malasa stations. Three out of these coaches capsized. As per available information, till now 133 passengers lost their lives. 58 persons sustained gross injuries and 120 passengers sustained simple injuries in this most unfortunate accident,” Prabhu said amid ruckus in the house.

Prabhu said a forensic enquiry was ordered into the rail crash adding the guilty will not be spared.

“Statutory enquiry by the commission of railway safety into the accident has been ordered to determine the correct cause of accident. There shall be a separate comprehensive investigation, headed by latest technical and forensic analysis by an appropriate agency to look into all possible angles. Strictest possible action would be taken against the guilty,” Prabhu said.

The largely colonial-era railway system, the world’s fourth largest, carries about 23 million people every day. But it is saturated and ageing badly. Average speeds top just 50 kph (30 mph) and train accidents are common.

The crash is a stark reminder of how hard it will be for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fulfil his promise to transform the railways into a more efficient, safer network befitting India’s economic power.

Modi this year pledged record levels of investment and has announced a new high-speed line funded by Japan, but little progress has been made on upgrading tracks or installing modern signalling equipment on the main network.