Train derails in Pakistan, causing 63 deaths . . .
On Monday, the Millat Express train, travelling through Pakistan’s southeastern region, derailed and landed on another track, colliding with the Sir Syed Express train minutes later. Both trains were carrying more than 1,000 passengers. Railway officials in Pakistan said at least 63 people have died, with more than 100 people injured, some in critical condition. While the reason for the derailment is still being investigated, a former railway minister said the section of the railway where the crash occurred is in “shambles,” while the current minister, Azam Swati, said that it is “really dangerous.” Shortly after the crash, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that he was ordering an investigation into “railway safety faultlines.”
Pakistan’s abysmal train safety record . . .
This is, unfortunately, not an isolated incident. Pakistan Railways data shows that between 2012 and 2017, there were 757 train accidents – an average of about 125 incidents per year. Between 2013 and 2019, 150 people died in train accidents. Monday’s accident is the worst the country has seen since October of 2019 when 70 passengers were killed due to a fire. Railway officials have said the leading causes of train accidents in Pakistan are older engines, signal issues, and a lack of train maintenance. Indeed, the current train tracks were laid during British colonial rule and have very rarely been upgraded.
Calls for railway system reform . . .
Railways are an essential mode of travel for many people in Pakistan, but the government has under invested in the maintenance of the deteriorated railway system. Successive governments in Pakistan – including the current government – have promised to upgrade the railways and have attempted to secure funds, but so far without success. The recent crash has spurred both public frustration and anger, and criticism from the political opposition. Hopefully, this time, the public outcry engenders reform and, most importantly, funding for Pakistan’s railway system.