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Indian train derails injuring 61; latest crash to raise concern

By Mayank Bhardwaj

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A train derailed in India on Wednesday injuring 61 people, police and rail officials said, the third significant accident in recent months that have raised concern about the safety of the ageing rail network.

The train came off the tracks and crashed near the northern city of Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh state early in the morning.

"Our latest assessment is that 61 people got injured in the accident and two sustained grievous injuries," said Anil Kumar Saxena, spokesman for Indian Railways.

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The train had just pulled out of the station and its speed was "rather slow", he said.

Television footage from the scene showed mangled, toppled carriages. Two coaches had fallen off a bridge into a small canal while some passengers were seen picking up their luggage from near the tracks.

India's creaking railway system is the world's fourth largest. It runs 11,000 trains a day, including 7,000 passenger trains carrying more than 20 million people.

But it has a poor safety record, with thousands of people dying every year in derailments, collisions and other accidents.

This was the third accident significant in recent months.

On Nov. 20, at least 146 people were killed when a train derailed near the same city.

A train rammed into a van taking children to school at a level crossing in north India in July, killing eight of them.

Railways minister Suresh Prabhu has promised to replace old tracks and upgrade safety systems. The government spends more than 90 percent of the railways' revenues on operational costs, leaving little for upgrades of the colonial-era system.

Some analysts estimate the railways need 20 trillion rupees ($293.21 billion) of investment by 2020, and India is turning to partnerships with private companies and seeking loans from other countries to upgrade the network.

($1 = 68 rupees)

(Additional reporting by Paritosh Bansal; Editing by Nick Macfie, Robert Birsel)