The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), in a December 2022 report, maintained that 69 per cent of railway accidents over a four-year-period, FY18- FY21, were because of derailments.

In the report on ‘Derailment in Indian Railways’, that was tabled in the Parliament, the CAG has red-flagged issues like track defects, engineering and maintenance issues and operating errors as some of the primary cause of derailments.

As per the report, there were 257 derailments out of 408 accidents booked in FY18 (63 per cent). Derailments near doubled next year to 526, out of 719 accidents or 73 per cent derailments in FY19. In FY20, 74 per cent of accidents were caused by derailments, although in number terms, there were 399 derailments out of 542 accidents. In FY21, there were 210 derailments, or 60 per cent accidents were caused by derailments.

Maintenance of track

Total 422 derailments were attributable to the ‘Engineering Department’ and the “major factor responsible for derailment was related to maintenance of track (171 cases), followed by deviation of track parameters beyond permissible limits (156 cases),” the report noted.

Derailments attributable to the ‘Mechanical Department’ were 182 and major causes include defects in ‘wheel diameter variation and defects in coaches/wagons’ which was to the tune of 37 per cent.

Accidents attributable to the ‘Loco Pilots’ was 154 – and these were caused by bad driving or over speeding’; while the ‘Operating Department’ was pulled up for 275-odd accidents. Errors by the operating department include incorrect setting of points and other mistakes in shunting operations, the accounted for 84 per cent of the accidents.

Failure to meet safety expenditure target

The CAG report said,while the ₹15,000-crore gross budgetary support for the Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) is being met, the contribution from the internal resources of railways have fallen short over the years.

The RRSK was a dedicated fund created for the railways in 2017-18 with a corpus of ₹1-lakh crore for five years. In 2022, upon the recommendation of NITI Aayog, the Central government agreed to extend the currency of the fund for another five years. The objective of the fund is to clear the backlog of critical safety and related works of the ministry, including track renewals, strengthening of bridges and signalling improvements among others.

The overall expenditure on Priority-I works from RRSK showed a declining trend from 81.55 per cent in 2017-18 to 73.76 per cent in 2019-20. Expenditure dropped from of ₹13,652 crore in FY18 to ₹11,655 crore in FY20.

The allotment of funds for Track Renewal works declined from ₹9,607.65 crore in 2018-19 to ₹7,417 crore in FY20. The funds allocated to track renewal works “were also not fully utilized”, it stated.

In 2017-18, seven zonal railways, surrendered funds of ₹299 crore; in FY19, nine zonal railways surrendered funds to ₹162.85 crore. was surrendered. In FY20, five zonal railways surrendered funds of ₹11.68 crore.

Out of 1127 derailments between 2017 and 21, nearly 289 derailments (or 26 per cent) were linked to track renewals.

The expenditure on non-priority areas rose from 2.76 per cent (₹463 crore in FY18) to 6.35 per cent (₹1,004 crore) in FY20.

In 2018-19, two zonal railways(Central Railway and Western Railway), have utilized RRSK funds for non-priority works, which ranges between 12-13 per cent. In 2019-20, three zonal railways (Central Railways, North Frontier Railway and Western Railway), have utilized the RRSK funds for non-priority works in the range of 10 - 25 per cent.


The CAG has also maintained that inquiries in Railway accidents are not completed on time and there are delays in the probe.

As per CAG’s suggestions, the Indian Railways should ensure strict adherence to the scheduled timelines for conducting and finalisation of accident inquiries.

It has also suggested that the Railways develop a strong monitoring mechanism to ensure timely implementation of maintenance activities by adopting fully mechanized methods of track maintenance and improved technologies.