At least 288 people were killed and 900 others were injured in a collision involving three trains in Odisha on Friday, making it one of India’s worst railway disasters.
The crash highlighted concerns not only about passenger safety, but also other problems plaguing the Indian Railways, such as overcrowding and delays. While these are long-standing concerns, in recent years, political will has been focused not on these problems but on the roll-out of Vande Bharat, a new day train service with steep ticket prices.
Vande Bharat push
The accident comes at a time when the Railways is paying Rs 115 crore for each Vande Bharat rake, as per the Economic Times. Such is the government focus on these trains that the prime minister himself has launched several Vande Bharat routes, with relentless promotional messaging about the benefits of the trains.
In February, when the Union budget allocated Rs 2.4 lakh crore to the Railways, the railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw underlined that the funds will be used to boost the production of Vande Bharat trains.
Vande Bharat fares are steeper than regular trains of the Indian Railways, which carried over 808 crore passengers in 2019-’20 and is a key means of transportation, especially for the poor.