Indian railways chief steps down after deadly crashes

The move came days after 23 people were killed when a train derailed in northern India

Indian policemen (L) look at derailed Indian train carriages after an accident in Auraiya district in Uttar Pradesh state on August 23, 2017.
At least 42 passengers were injured August 23 after several cars of an express train derailed in northern India, police said, four days after another rail accident killed 23 people in the country.
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The head of India's railways has quit after a series of deadly accidents on the crumbling network, an official said on Wednesday.

The move came days after 23 people were killed when a train derailed in northern India on Saturday, the fourth major disaster on the country's railways this year.

K Mittal, who had been in the post since 2014, will be succeeded by Ashwani Lohani, a former engineer credited with helping state-run Air India turn its first profit after over a decade of losses.

"Mr Lohani has been appointed as the chairman of railway board. Mr Mittal's resignation has been accepted," a railway official said on condition of anonymity.The government has come under pressure after a series of accidents.

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu indicated on Wednesday that he had offered his resignation to the prime minister, who had asked him to hold off.

Mr Prabhu tweeted that he was "extremely pained by the unfortunate accidents, injuries to passengers and loss of precious lives" and took full moral responsibility.


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The latest rail accident took place on Wednesday morning, when the Kafiyat Express derailed in Uttar Pradesh injuring at least 74 people.

The derailment occurred at 2.40am when a truck carrying sand for construction overturned on the tracks near Auraiya town.

Senior state government official Arvind Kumar said the train driver was forced to brake and the impact caused eight coaches and the engine to go off the rails.

On Sunday, 23 people were killed after 14 coaches of a train derailed in a different part of the state. An investigation has been ordered into that accident.

Accidents are relatively common on India's huge but badly maintained railway network. The government-run rail network operates 9,000 passenger trains and carries some 23 million passengers every day.

The network is the world's fourth largest by distance and remains the main form of travel in the vast country, but safety has been a concern amid a spate of accidents.

It is poorly funded and deadly accidents occur frequently, with experts blaming under-investment and poor safety standards.

A 2012 government report described the loss of 15,000 passengers to rail accidents every year in India as a "massacre".