MASTERS TRAVEL CORRESPONDENT (INDIA) – Monday
International travellers’ Mark and Sarah Bailey (MASTERS20152016.com) have escaped serious injury twice in two days.
The Surrey couple, who are just three weeks into a nine month Round the World Trip, diced with death on the roads and rail network, in two close calls this weekend in Tamil Nadu, Southern India.
The first incident happened Saturday, on the notorious mountain road between Coimbatore and Coonoor when a local bus just in front of the Bailey’s taxi collided with a lorry.
The accident, on a hairpin bend with deep ravine beneath, caused no serious injuries, but local ambulances were soon on the scene to assist the walking wounded. Initial reports believe the accident may have been caused by excessive speed.
24 hours later the Bailey’s were involved in a second near miss, this time travelling on the world famous UNESCO “Toy Train” between the hill stations of Ooty and Coonoor.
“I was looking out of the window, around a sharp bend when a man waving a large cloth in the middle of the track literally flagged down the train” said Mark (52). “The train came to an abrupt stop and it soon became clear that the driver’s swift action had averted a possible disaster. A tree had fallen across the lines and would have caused a derailment. It was like a scene from the Railway Children, but this time no Jenny Agutter!”
Railway officials and engineers arrived in less than 30 minutes and together with the aid of local residents and passengers, managed to remove the tree clear of the track, before the train continued its southbound journey.
This latest incident on India’s “Toy Train Network” comes less than two weeks after a tragedy involving two British Tourists, who were killed on a specially chartered train between Kalka and Shimla. The cause of this accident is still being investigated.
Commented TRL’s (Transport Research Laboratory) former Communications Manager, Sarah Bailey (55), “You literally take your life in your hands every time you travel on an Indian road. Speeding, dangerous driving and drink driving are taking their toll, but you always think of train travel as safe. Fortunately, the quick witted actions of the driver of our train and the unknown local man saved what could have been a terrible tragedy.”
EDITORS COMMENT: The above report from our local correspondent, perhaps sounds slightly sensationalised. But road and indeed rail accidents are far too common in the World’s largest democracy.
In the capital, New Delhi, the frequency of traffic collisions is 40 times higher than the rate in London. And worryingly, with just 1% of the world’s cars, India accounts for 15% of global traffic deaths.
Rising affluence has meant owning a car in India has become much easier.
But with bad driving habits, poor regulation and flawed road design, accidents happen all too frequently. Speeding, running red lights, drink driving, riding motorbikes without helmets and non-existent lane management accounts for more than 200,000 fatalities every year.
Stats for the UK show that in the year ending September 2014, 1,807 deaths were recorded on British roads. This is put it in to further context when you realise that there are just over 31 million cars on the road in the UK and only 70 million in India despite the vast difference in population size.
So what is the answer? Well certainly further education of drivers is a key priority. So is the urgent need for law enforcement which appears non-existent. And there must be an immediate clamp-down on people driving with no licence as according to Indian Transport officials, 25% of driver’s licences are procured fraudulently.
Former TRL Manager Sarah Bailey is right when she says “you literally take your life in your hands every time you travel on an Indian road.” But this should not have to be the case and the Indian National and Regional Government Departments must look to use internationally renowned Transport Research Establishments like TRL to try and find solutions to this worrying situation.
Road (and rail) travel should not put you off visiting this wonderful country. But it would be good to think that future travellers to India, will be able to travel safe in the knowledge that India is doing all that it can to improve its current poor accident record.