Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC correspondent)
A goods train collided with a goods train stationed near the Singhpur railway station of Bilaspur Division on the Bilaspur-Katni rail route on 19 April 2023. The loco pilot of the stationary train died and five other personnel were injured.
In a letter to Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, the All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA) said the Singhpur incident is the “latest in a slew of such accidents” where safety instructions by the Railway Board were flouted.
The goods train which dashed into the stationary train had 58 wagons, of which 48 were Bogie-Mounted Brake System (BMBS) wagons that have a faulty brake system.
The Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) of Indian Railways in July 2022 had pointed out “deficiencies” in the braking power of BMBS wagons, based on which the Railway Board conducted trials and mandated that no more than half of the wagons in a goods train could be BMBS, with speed restrictions in consideration.
Pointing out that 80 per cent of the wagons were BMBS, the AILRSA said the “erratic function of the brake gears” in these wagons could have made the train run “uncontrolled at a speed of 67 kmph and pass the danger signal”, dashing into the stationary train. “The accountability must be fixed on the officials,” the association added.
The AILRSA also raised the issue of “inhuman treatment” of employees, citing that on the day of the accident, the running crew of the speeding freight train had been forced to work continuously for over 14 hours, including an overnight duty.
The High-Power Committee, in 2020, had recommended reducing the duty hours of goods train crew to 10 hours. The Railway Board has instructed to utilise the crew for up to 11 hours at a stretch or for nine hours of running duty.
The AILRSA said that had the accident not occurred, the crew would have been “forced to work till the train reached its destination or next crew changing point”.
“Such inhuman treatment towards crew must be stopped on humanitarian ground alone. The officials responsible for allowing/forcing the crew to work beyond the prescribed duty hours of 10 hours at a stretch should be taken up for punitive action,” the letter added