A day after the loss of 23 lives in a tragic train accident near Mathura, the Ministry of Railways has started taking a hard look at the critical need to provide for better training to drivers.
Preliminary investigations suggest that the tragedy happened because of “human failure.” Accordingly, plans are being worked to expedite acquisition of simulators to train the 80,000-strong force of locomotive pilots, who ply 8,984 passenger trains across a 63,000-kilometer network -- ferrying 1.4 million passengers daily.
Following the 2003 recommendations of the Justice HR Khanna-headed committee on railway safety, the Indian Railways acquired 12 simulators from the French Corys at a cost of 12 million Euros in 2005.
For meeting future needs, the Railways once again floated global tenders in 2007 to acquire 18 big and 108 small simulators.
The acquisition plans have not moved forward, but the Railways will shortly take a re-look at the proposal, said a ministry official, who did not want to be named because he is not authorised to speak to journalists.
His comments came as Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee held a meeting of the Rail Board and asked its members to accord top priority to safety issues – including the option of importing better technology. Using up corpus funds of Rs 17, 000 crore – raised as a Special Railway Safety Fund – the Railways conducted an extensive track and signaling modernization plan for ensuring better safety during 2001-07. However, gaps have remained.
For one, the Anti-Collision Devices (ACDs) – a technology developed and patented by the Konkan Railways – have not been installed by a majority of the zonal railways.
So far, only the Northeast Frontier Railway has installed the device along its 1700-kilometer network, while the Southern, South Central and the South Western Railways are reported to agree in principle on the installation plans.
“Would the Mathura-type of accidents been avoided if the Railways had not been so sluggish in the installation of ACDs”, asks former Chairman, Railway Board (CRB) Satish Vaish.