- Another near-miss should be a lesson
There was another near-miss on the Railways on Saturday, when the Khyber Mail manged to avert ploughing into the Fareed Express only because an alert driver manged to brake in time. Both trains had been signalled to enter the same siding at Mehrabpur station, near Naushahro Feroze. This makes it the sixth near-miss since the July 11 collision between the Akbar Express and a stationary goods train at Walhar station in Rahim Yar Khan district, which left 24 passengers dead. The Walhar collision too was the result of a signalling fault. The Railways must establish whether this was the result of human error, which means that there are defects in the training or selection of signalmen, or in the signalling system itself. The age of the system indicates that decrepitude has set in, especially since there has been none of the renewal and repair of the system which keeps it going.
Signalling problems are particularly worrisome for railways, for they depend on signals to function. However, instead of paying attention to this problem, which affects the travelling public, the Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed is busy starting new trains. Instead of overseeing the work of this particular minister, Prime Minister seems to value his ability to indulge in anti-opposition rhetoric. It is a bonus that Sheikh Rashid manages to get the Prime Minister to come and inaugurate these new trains. He really outdid himself on the last occasion, when he got PM Khan to inaugurate the Mianwali Express, which touched the Prime Minister’s constituency.
It should not be forgotten that when in opposition, Mr Khan would demand the Railways Minister’s resignation whenever there was an accident. Now, it seems, he is all right with a minister who has allowed the Railways to turn into an accident just waiting to happen. Near-misses should not mean a sigh of relief and getting on with one’s life; they should mean a serious re-examination of all procedures, and a review of existing equipment. The purpose is preventing near-misses, because the next incident could be a major accident.