“Safety taken for granted”
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.