Classification of Railways Accidents

Railway accidents are categorized into different classes according to the type of accident (Table 22.2).


Type of accident






Averted collision


Train passing danger signal


Breach of block rules


Fire in trains, etc.


Train running into road traffic at level crossing


Failure of engine and rolling stock


Failure of permanent way


Train wrecking


Other train and trolley accidents




Unusual incidents



Out of the accidents listed in Table 22.2, the more important ones are discussed in detail in the following subsections.


Collision refers to one train crashing or running into another train or rolling stock. These type of accidents are dreaded the most, and though they constitute only 7% of all accidents, they are responsible for 38% of the total number of deaths. There are three major types of collisions, namely, head-on collisions, rear-end collisions, and side collisions. The main causes behind these collisions are failure of the station staff or technical staff to carry out their duties effectively and failure of drivers due to a communication error. The remedial measures for avoiding collisions are as follows.

(a) Development of human resources

(b) Modern signalling technologies and electronic gadgets: The new technologies adopted to compensate for the error of human judgement mostly consist of improved signalling methods and innovative electronic systems. Some of these technologies include automatic block signalling and continuous track-circuiting, automatic train protection and warning systems, block proving by axle counters, panel and solid-state interlocking, and the anti-collision device (ACD). These systems send out a timely warning or automatically apply brakes to prevent an accident even in the case of human failure.


A derailments occurs when a train skids off the track because of some obstruction or abnormality. The main causes of derailments are track defects, vehicle defects, signalling and interlocking defects, human failure including defective operation of railway equipment, and other miscellaneous causes. The remedial measures for preventing derailments are follows.

(a) Improvement in track structure and track maintenance procedures

(b) Use of a modern rolling stock with planned maintenance schedules

(c) Use of modern signalling and electronic equipment with innovative techniques

(d) Development of human resources

Accidents at level crossings

Out of the 37,345 level crossings existing on Indian Railways as on 31 March 2004, only 16,607 level crossings were manned and had gatekeepers; the rest were unmanned and did not have gatekeepers. Only 14,500 level crossings had telephone systems connected them to the stations.

Fire accidents in trains

Train fires, particularly fires in passenger trains, take a heavy toll on life and property. These fires may occur due to a short circuit in the wiring of the coaches, the presence of inflammable material such as petrol, kerosene oil, and gas cylinders inside the trains, etc. The following measures have been taken to avert train fires.

Design of coaches Wooden coaches have been replaced with steel coaches and the inside of the coaches are gradually being equipped with fire-resistant materials.

Electric lighting The railways have switched over from gas lighting to electric lighting. Even in this case, a short circuit in the 24-V system, which draws a heavy current, can cause the electric wires to get overheated resulting in a fire in the coach. In view of this danger, Indian Railways is gradually changing the system to that of 110 V, of which will reduce the possibilities of such fires.

Publicity campaigns Even though the railways have strict rules regarding the transportation of explosives and dangerous materials, these rules need to be implemented more rigorously. The railways are introducing new publicity campaigns to educate the public in this regard.

Accidents due to floods and breaches

Railway bridges and embankments are likely to get adversely affected, due to heavy rains and sudden cloudbursts that result in floods and breaches, thereby creating unsafe conditions on the tracks and causing accidents. Therefore, the following safety measures should be taken during heavy rains to ensure the safety of the track.

(a) Gang patrolling during an abnormal rainfall or storm to check damages if any, to the track and bridges.

(b) Night patrolling during monsoons to detect the damages if any, caused by floods, including breaches, settlements, slips, and scours, and taking immediate action on perceiving any damage so as to protect the trains.

(c) Daily foot patrolling by the keyman to inspect the entire track. The keyman should also take immediate action upon discovering any unsafe condition that may be a result of unexpected occurrences such as rains and floods.

(d) Watchmen should be stationed at all vulnerable locations such as bridges and flooded causeways in order to provide safety to railway tracks.

Train Accidents | RAILWAY ENGINEERING | Derailment and its Causes