The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Safety thrust in railway’s upgrade action plan

A railway employee to guide you to your reserved seat on a train waiting at the platform; security guards on hand to keep touts or hawkers from pestering you...

The next trip to Howrah station may have more than one surprise in store for you, if a slew of promises put forward by the railway authorities on Thursday stays on track.

The city-based headquarters of South Eastern Railway (SER), which has recently been trifurcated, has decided to improve passenger amenities and safety and security of passengers on its long-distance trains.

General manager V.N. Garg announced that a decision had been taken to train all railway staff to cooperate with passengers and also ensure punctuality. “Our objective will be to improve passenger facilities and ensure punctuality of trains, so that passengers do not face problems,” said Garg, adding that “a section of railway staff will undergo rigorous training, with emphasis on greater passenger-railway cooperation”.

The general manager also held out the assurance that work on the proposed Digha-Tamluk railway line was in full swing, with train services up to Contai starting by the end of June 2003. “We plan to finish on the entire section by December 2005. Work should have been over much earlier, but the earlier contracts had fallen through, causing the delay,” he added. A new route on the Uluberia-Budge Budge section will also be opened shortly.

SER, which has “always been a leader in terms of revenue from freight traffic” over the years in its undivided avatar, will continue to grow, feels Garg. Apart from plans to introduce new trains connecting Howrah to various parts of the country, the SER authorities have already developed a computerised passenger coach guidance system, by which the positions of all coaches of the train can be indicated through displays controlled on-line in the control room.

A self-printing ticket machine has been introduced, and more computerised reservation facilities are on the cards.

The railways are also working on a device to thwart collision on tracks. The anti-collision device, which can automatically stop two trains before they collide, is being tested and will soon be introduced in the section.

“We have decided to give the safety and security aspects on long-distance trains priority to attract more passengers. This entails upgrading the skills of frontline staff engaged in train operations, teaching them to handle state-of-the-art technical equipment and maintenance of tracks to minimise accidents,” Garg added. Of 30 train accidents reported in 2002-2003, at least 18 were due to negligence of railway staff, Garg conceded.

Sewer drive: Mayoral council member (water supply) Rajib Deb has taken up an awareness campaign on waterlogging. On Thursday, he addressed gatherings at Ekdalia and Shyambazar, appealing to the people not to discard plastic bags on the streets, which choke the sewerage systems.

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