The Mumbai train derailment two days ago could point to a growing trend in India, according to Brian Jenkins, director of the Mineta Transportation Institute’s (MTI) National Transportation Security Center of Excellence. But it also could have serious implications for other countries. Terrorists make note of methods, taking lessons from all attempts, whether successful or not. These lessons could be applied to other systems, MTI suggests.
Sabotage of the rail line sent a Calcutta-to-Mumbai express hurtling off the tracks into the path of an oncoming freight train, killing more than 100 people and injuring scores of others. According to Indian police, a Maoist guerrilla group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Earlier in May, Maoist guerrillas in India’s Chhattisgarh State detonated a mine under a passenger bus, killing 44.
The threat seems to be growing, with at least 30 deliberate derailments in India since January 2000, almost four times the number of derailments in the 1990s, and 15 times the number of incidents in the 1980s. The death toll between 2000 and 2010 is 13 times greater than that in the 1990s, although, owing to two bloody incidents, it is only slightly greater than the 1980s.—Brian Jenkins
MTI will be examining this case and other recent attacks in India to see what lessons might be learned and how these may be applied to other countries.
According to MTI’s database of attacks on surface transportation, this death toll makes the May 28 derailment India’s worst terrorist attack on passenger rail since 2006, and its bloodiest deliberate derailment in decades. On 11 July 2006, terrorists detonated seven bombs on Mumbai’s crowded commuter trains, killing 207 people and injuring hundreds of others. The last comparable derailment occurred in 1989, when sabotage derailed the Bangalore-Delhi Express killing 67.
A recent MTI report on deliberate derailments, Off the Rails: The 1995 Attempted Derailing of the French TGV (High Speed Train) and Quantitative Analysis of 181 Rail Sabotage Attempts by Jenkins, Bruce R. Butterworth, and Jean-François Clair, shows India’s rail system suffering the most terrorists derailments with 42 incidents or 23% of the total number of such incidents. According to MTI’s database, India also leads the world in the number of terrorist bomb attacks against train and bus targets with 387 incidents since 1970, or 17% of the total.
The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) was established by Congress in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and was reauthorized under TEA-21 and again under SAFETEA-LU. The institute is funded by Congress through the US DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration, by the California Legislature through the Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and by other public and private grants and donations, including the US Department of Homeland Security. The US DOT selected MTI as a national “Center of Excellence” following 2002 and 2005 competitions.
MTI conducts research, education, and information and technology transfer focusing on multi-modal surface transportation policy and management issues.