After the Jhargram tragedy, the focus is now on the need to fill an estimated 90,883 vacant posts in the Railways. An estimated 40 % of these are safety-related posts.
Vacant positions include those of gangmen, safety inspectors and supervisors responsible for maintaining tracks along the 65,050-km-long network.
Tracks in Jhargram were sensitised by the Railway Protection Force before the accident, but the tragedy could have been averted if personnel responsible for manning the tracks were also on duty, an official said.
Shiv Gopal Mishra of the All India Railwaymen Federation said there was a big need to fill up vacancies. An estimated 18% posts of gangmen are vacant, apart from 8% of safety inspectors, 30% of supervisors and 14% of keymen (who man the unmanned level-crossings).
At least 20% posts of loco pilots or drivers are also vacant.
During UPA-I, then Railways Minister Lalu Prasad had announced plans of installing automatic block signaling systems along the estimated 1,000-km-long stretch in the Maoist-hit stretches in Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar and Andhra Pradesh. So far, the Railways have been able to install the systems only along 7,000 km in the Mumbai-Delhi and the Kolkata-Chennai corridor. The signal systems in the Naxal-hit states are largely manually operated.
"New systems are not in place, while the manual system has virtually been discarded," said Satish Vaish, former chairman, Railway Board.
Officials have ruled out that the accident was caused by removal of fish plates.