They are dubbed the killer trains. If it’s your first time traveling to India, that’s not a warning. It’s just a fact.
In 2015, for instance, nine train passengers died daily. It’s nothing compared to cardiovascular diseases which kill 33 people in India every second, but really, are you going to risk it?
Do You Want the Numbers?
If you combine all the deaths in train derailment in the US, UK, and Canada, the total figure is not even a quarter of the total fatalities in India. Japan, known for its obsession on safety, hasn’t had an accident in the past five decades.
Meanwhile, more than 3,000 passengers were killed riding a train in India between 1999 and 2009.
Just in January of 2017, another 39 were killed and 50 were fighting for their lives at the hospital after a train derailed in Andhra Pradesh, a state in India which is about a day’s travel from capital New Delhi.
Is It Just About the Scale, Though?
On any given day, 23 million travel on 19,000 trains through a complex network that spans almost 64,000 kilometers. When you think about it, the deaths are almost negligible when compared to the number of passengers who managed to get home safely to their loved ones every day.
You know how many miles of train tracks are there in the US? Try 250,000 or about four times that of India. Do you know how many died in the US between 1999 and 2009? Not even 600.
So, clearly it’s a safety issue. For one thing, some of these trains date back to British colonial rule more than 160 years ago. Instead of rehab, the Indian government undercut the budget for the trains from 56% of the total transport expenses in 1990 to just 30% in 2012.
Despite the exponential growth in population, with India having a population of 1.3 billion in 2015, the number of trains practically remained the same in the last 60 years. Imagine a manufacturing plant deciding to pack five more sardines in a can with a capacity of four.
Surely, India can control the number of passengers by the number of tickets they issue, right?
That would be fine until you realize that thousands actually jump on the train without tickets. In one quarter alone in 2016, more than 14 million people were caught without tickets. That’s enough to blow your mind.
So, you really have a perfect storm of a disaster when you think about the old trains, the overburdened coaches due to the sheer number of passengers and lack of funds for rehab. In fact, it’s really a miracle that the number of deaths on India’s killer train is not more.