The derailment of the Hazara Express near Sahara railway station, which is between Shehzadpur and Nawabshah, was a human tragedy, with as many as 22 killed and 80 injured, as 10 passenger coaches went off the track. As is mandatory, the cause of the accident is bein investigated by Pakistan Railways itself, but going by past precedent, one of three causes will be put forward: driver error, signalling error, or track maintenance failure. Driver error is because of human error, as can be a signalling error. However, that can be because of a mechanical failure, ascribable to a lack of maintenance of equipment, which is also the reason for poor track maintenance.
Whatever the cause of the present accident, the other causes will not have gone away. Indeed, the determined cause will not be eliminated, and while railways are supposed to be a safe mode of transport, the passengers will take their lives into their hands each time they board a train. The introduction of showy new services will not turn around the Railways. The reputation for reliability must be restored by appropriate action which will assure the intending traveller that he will get to his destination, and the sender of goods the assurance that his consignment will arrive safely, It is not viable for the Railways to rely only on cheapness as its unique selling point. There is no point in cheapness if one does not reach, as was found by all those who travelled on the ill-fated train, which was bound for vRawalpindi from Karachi.
The Railways should not place its hopes on the CPEC project for the preparation of the Main Line from Karachi to Rawalpindi to receive bullet trains (so that oil offloaded at Gwadar can be shipped to China). The project itself has been mooted for a long time, but is still taking a long time to be implemented. Besides, are people to keep on dying in train accidents until it is? The project should not be used as an excuse to put off needed repair work on the tracks, just because it will mean relaying both tracks and signals. The Railways administration also needs to ask itself if it wants the current crop of engine drivers in charge of bullet trains. Derailments of slow trains are unacceptable, but what about those at 120 mph or faster?