India train derailment kills at least 2, injures 43

Members of the public gather at the site of an accident where an Ajmer-Sealdah Express train derailed some 50km from Kanpur, India, on Dec 28, 2016.
Members of the public gather at the site of an accident where an Ajmer-Sealdah Express train derailed some 50km from Kanpur, India, on Dec 28, 2016.PHOTO: EPA
Relief and rescue workers gathering on the site of an accident where an Ajmer-Sealdah Express train derailed some 50km from Kanpur, India, on Dec 28, 2016.
Relief and rescue workers gathering on the site of an accident where an Ajmer-Sealdah Express train derailed some 50km from Kanpur, India, on Dec 28, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

NEW DELHI (AFP, REUTERS) - A train derailed in northern India on Wednesday (Dec 28) killed at least 2 and injured at least 43, police and rail officials said, at least the third such accident in recent weeks that has raised concerns about the safety of the ageing rail network.  

The train derailed near the city of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh state early in the morning.  

All the injured, several of whom were in critical condition, had been taken to nearby hospitals, Javeed Ahmad, director general of police, Uttar Pradesh, said in a tweet.  

TV footage from the scene showed mangled, toppled carriages, some with their wheels still on the tracks. Two coaches had fallen off a bridge into a small canal. Some passengers were seen picking up their luggage from near the tracks.  

India’s creaking railway system is the world’s fourth largest. It runs 11,000 trains a day, including 7,000 passenger trains carrying more than 20 million people.  

But it has a poor safety record, with thousands of people dying in accidents every year, including in derailments and collisions.

This was at least the third such accident in recent weeks. On Nov 20, at least 146 people died when a train derailed near the same city.  Suresh Prabhu, India’s railways minister, has promised to replace old tracks and upgrade safety apparatus.

The government spends more than 90 per cent of the railways’ revenues on operational costs, leaving little for upgrades for the colonial-era system.  

By some analyst estimates, the railways need 20 trillion rupees (S$425 billion) of investment by 2020, and India is turning to partnerships with private companies and seeking loans from other countries to upgrade the network.