Govt’s plan to roll out fast trains takes a hit

  • Srinand Jha, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 29, 2016 18:31 IST
Passengers aboard the newly launched 'Gatimaan Express', India’s first semi-high speed train. (PTI Photo)

The Indian Railways have disbanded the Indian Railways Project Management Unit (IRPMU) – a centralized unit that had been monitoring execution of the Train Protection and Warning Systems (TPWS) scheme. The decision is likely to affect NDA government’s plans to increase train speeds.

Installation of the TPWS –an European technology that prevents head-on collisions – have been mandated by the office of the Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety (CCRS)

for operating trains at speeds of 160kmph or above. The system automatically activates brakes on a train that has passed a signal at danger or is otherwise over-speeding.

Approximately 3000 passengers have died in rail-related accidents in India in the past ten years; a big chunk of deaths having been caused on account of head-on collisions.

The Gatimaan – India’s fastest – is currently the only train on the network that has the TPWS systems installed.

In a circular of June 14, the Railway Board ordered the merger of the IRPMU with the North Central Railway with effect from July 1, instructing all officers/staff to shift to the zonal headquarters at Allahabad within 15 days. The scheme will now be implemented separately by the 17 zones of the Indian Railways, according to the circular.

The slapdash transfer decision for the IRPMU employees _ which comes during the middle of the academic season - has given rise to speculations that the move has been provoked by a desperate need to cut costs at a time when the state-owned transporter has been incurring substantial revenue losses.

Rail earnings have alarming plunged in this fiscal’s first quarter. Official documents show that the state-owned transporter not only failed to meet its budgetary earnings targets during the first two months of the current fiscal, but also recorded a 9% shortfall as compared to last year’s income during the same period.

“The decision to scatter up the activities on TPWS implementation will enable the state-owned transporter to delay spending on the capital intensive plan during the current fiscal, when it confronts the challenge of providing for substantial payouts for implementing the recommendations of the seventh Pay Commission, an official said.

Railway Board member (engineering) A K Mittal disagreed, saying that the move would actually speed up the TPWS execution. “Getting the different railway zones on board to execute this important program is only in order”, he told HT.

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