Driver ‘fatigue’ causing rail accidents
The Indian Railways has finally admitted what has been known all along: accidents are happening because loco pilots, or drivers, are “fatigued”. Srinand Jha reports.india Updated: Jan 22, 2010 23:53 IST
The Indian Railways has finally admitted what has been known all along: accidents are happening because loco pilots, or drivers, are “fatigued”.
"Because of the continued stretch of foggy conditions, loco pilots are possibly fatigued. We need to re-examine the work conditions of the loco pilots," newly appointed railways board member Vivek Sahai said on Friday.
The railways admit to a 16 per cent shortfall in number of drivers. Functionaries of the Indian Railways Loco Runningmen Organisation (IRLRO), however, say the number could be as high as 40 per cent.
At any given point, 15 per cent of the drivers are either on leave or assigned other jobs, it is estimated. This puts an additional pressure on those running the trains.
Against the stipulated seven hour-and-25-minute duty, drivers were putting in between 14 to 16 hours each day without a weekly rest or a compulsory off, said an IRLRO memorandum submitted to the railway board last month.
Situations worsen during fog when drivers spend hours either waiting for 'a train or a path', a loco pilot told HT, refusing to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the media. "Time spent waiting in the running rooms is not counted as being on duty".
Drivers have also been demanding better pay and service conditions. "Drivers get an allowance of Rs 169 for every 100 km of train journey covered, which is less than half the amount of the dearness allowance that clerical staff in the same grade are entitled to," the loco-pilot said.
Drivers were ill-paid and overworked - and also the ones to be punished for an accident, said Jai Prakash, a retired
loco pilot and a lifetime IRLO member.