RAIL privatisation in different countries has spawned a range of authorities and committees responsible for attributing responsibility for delays and incidents, so that operators and infrastructure managers can shuffle the penalty payments and compensation claims back and forth.

Sidetrack hears that a new approach is being pioneered by one of the world’s largest remaining state-owned railways. Faced with increasing concern over the level of accidents affecting Indian Railways, recently-appointed Railways Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav claimed last month that it was all the fault of the Hindu god of machinery.

’Indian Railways is the responsibility of the Lord Vishwakarma’, the minister told the Times of India on July 2. ’So is the safety of passengers. It is his duty, not mine. I have been forced to don his mantle.’ As yet there is no indication as to how many of IR’s 13 million daily passengers agree with this particular attribution.