Keshav Chandra, appointed Member (Mechanical) with the Railway Board last month, is a man of many parts. Author of a book on sports called “One Track Mind”, which talks of excellence in sports through celibacy, Chandra has also been actively associated with the voluntary blood donation movement. Since 1976, he has donated blood as many as 80 times. In the following exclusive interview with Srinand Jha, he talks about his plans and priorities in his new assignment. Excerpts:
What are your priorities in your new assignment?
My focus will be on executing the roadmap that has been defined in the Vision-2020 document. I will strive to provide for affordable and efficient transportation services with focus on safety, customer satisfaction and environmental friendliness.
Can you elaborate on plans to enhance passenger safety?
We need to upgrade our rolling stock from the point of view of safety. We are gradually switching over to the LHB design coaches, which apart from providing for better travel comfort also ensure safer travel. These coaches are designed with anti-climbing and anti-toppling features. For preventing the possibility of fire-related accidents, we have introduced stringent standards of fire retardance of materials used in coach interiors. Automatic fire and smoke detection systems are also under trial. These systems will be extensively tried in 20 trains shortly.
What are the measures proposed to prevent accidents of goods trains?
Plans under consideration are to enable switch over of wagons to bogie-mounted brake systems and twin-pipe brake systems. This will ensure that wagons have an efficient braking system. We are also developing higher axle-load and track-friendly bogies, which will exert lesser lateral forces on tracks, making them less prone to derailments. Prototype of such wagons has been manufactured and is now ready for trials.
Common complaints have been about poor services in passenger amenities. Train toilets remain dirty and general levels of hygiene and cleanliness are poor. What can be done to improve the situation?
Besides close monitoring, we are also expanding the work being undertaken under the Clean Train Station (CTS) and On Board House-Keeping Services (OBHS). We are also expanding the services of mechanised laundries. You will be able to witness visible improvements in the standards of cleanliness in trains in coming months.
The Green Toilets plan has been progressing at rather a slow pace. Are there plans to fast-forward the pace of implementation?
Yes, the bio-toilets plan will be implemented at a fast pace. Around 400 such toilets — jointly developed by the Railways and the Defense Research and Development Organisation — have already been fitted in coaches. We have planned to provide an additional 2,500 bio-toilets during the current fiscal.
The Railways have continuously increased its loading and transportation figures in the last decade, with only a marginal increase of railway lines and rolling stock. How has this come about?
The Railways have achieved improved efficiency because of the better design and utilisation of rolling stock. The switch-over to stainless steel wagons, which are lighter and have a higher loading capacity, have resulted in higher payload. A frame-less design of the tank wagon and a bi-level auto-car wagon are also under development. In coming months and years, the Railways will also have more double-stack container trains and double-decker coaches. This will help generate line capacity for running additional trains.