India is phasing out the daily track inspections conducted by an army of 125,000 engineers across its vast colonial-era railway network, as ministers attempt to put an end to the blight of deadly derailments.
The plan to bring in electronic sensors on tens of thousands of kilometres of track is part of a wider programme to improve railway safety, to which finance minister Arun Jaitley allocated $15bn in last week’s Budget, and follows three serious derailments in the past three months.
“We will be using wheel-based sensors and fixed monitors at certain positions on the track to measure whether they are fractured,” said Hanish Yadav, an adviser to rail minister Suresh Prabhu. He added that the sensors would take several years to install throughout the broad-gauge network.
India’s rail system is one of the largest in the world, carrying 20m passengers a day, and is the country’s largest employer, with about 1.3m staff. But it is also in need of modernisation, with many parts of its infrastructure more than 100 years old.