“Safety taken for granted”

Governance Now - - RAIL SECURITY - VIVEK SA­HAI for­mer chair­man, rail­way board

Re­cent de­rail­ments in­di­cate poor co­or­di­na­tion be­tween the en­gi­neer­ing and traf­fic de­part­ments of the board. Do you think the board is en­tan­gled in in­fight­ing?

In­fight­ing be­tween the rail­way board mem­bers can­not be ruled out. Gen­er­ally, in­fight­ing is not de­part­ment-ori­ented but per­son­al­ity-ori­ented. But if it is hap­pen­ing on a de­part­ment level then it is a mat­ter of con­cern. The dis­sent be­tween the board mem­bers may hap­pen on a host of is­sues but the prob­lem re­gard­ing per­mis­sions of blocks may not reach to that level. it has to be re­solved at the zonal level by Gms and drms.

When a track frac­ture is de­tected through ul­tra­sound de­vices and op­er­a­tions con­tinue, of­fi­cials usu­ally take a call to re­pair the frac­ture within a few hours or the same day. in this case, drm and Gm have to co­or­di­nate with dif­fer­ent de­part­ments such as sig­nalling and tele­com, en­gi­neer­ing, traf­fic among oth­ers. When there are more blocks, rev­enue and punc­tu­al­ity are bound to get af­fected. So a bal­ance has to be main­tained.

drm, Gm and CRB should co­or­di­nate with op­er­at­ing, elec­tri­cal, com­mer­cial, civil en­gi­neer­ing and me­chan­i­cal de­part­ments at their level. The prob­lem of blocks has to be re­solved at the drm level. drm should en­sure ev­ery de­part­ment works in tan­dem. if the mat­ter is not re­solved at the drm level, it should be looked af­ter by the Gm and then the rail­way board.

How im­por­tant is the role of the chief safety of­fi­cer?

it should be ex­am­ined how the cso is work­ing and what in­spec­tions are be­ing car­ried out and whether safety coun­selling ses­sions are con­ducted to en­sure peo­ple do not com­mit mis­takes. That has been given a go by. Safety has been taken for granted.

What ex­actly went wrong in the Khatauli de­rail­ment?

if there was some prob­lem and the track in­spec­tor sought per­mis­sion for a block from the op­er­at­ing de­part­ment which was de­nied then the track should not have been cut on the Khatauli sec­tion.

Track main­te­nance staff can­not carry out re­pair work if the per­mis­sion for block is de­nied by the traf­fic wing. de­spite this, if block is con­sid­ered in­evitable in case of an emer­gency, then the in­spec­tor has the power to de­clare that this par­tic­u­lar track is un­safe. in that case, no train can pass on that track. in­spec­tors have such powers to check the track and is­sue a memo to carry out blocks.

it is ab­so­lutely cor­rect that the gang­men and other ground staff did not dis­play the red flag 1,200 me­tres away from the site at the both ends where the track was cut for re­pair. it is a mat­ter of grave con­cern. Here comes the role of safety coun­selling to be done by the cso. There are safety coun­sel­lors in ev­ery divi­sion and they barely pay at­ten­tion to coun­sel gang­men and other civil en­gi­neer­ing staff.

it should be probed how many times the safety coun­sel­lor of Khatauli sec­tion con­ducted coun­selling ses­sions of gang­men and other civil en­gi­neer­ing per­son­nel two months be­fore the de­rail­ment. drms and Gms have to make a field visit and check whether in­spec­tions are be­ing done at the ground level.

it should also be checked when did the cso of north­ern rail­way take the safety in­spec­tion and what was the out­come. cso should be up­graded to higher ad­min­is­tra­tive grade for bet­ter mon­i­tor­ing of safety and giv­ing muscle to the de­part­ment.

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