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Rail safety lessons, the KBC way
Mangled bogies of the Konkan Railway Holiday Express which derailed on June 23. (Reuters)

Vadodara, July 21: Two-thirds of all train accidents in the country occur because of human error.

That should raise serious questions about the training imparted to the people who are responsible for ensuring safety of trains and tracks.

Though the Railway Staff College here and six other institutes across the country provide the right kind of education with their specialised training, the trainees lose earnestness and commitment once they go out into the field.

“We can train them (future staff), give them refresher courses and sensitise them to their responsibilities. But what can be done if they do not go out into the field and perform their task'” asked Gyaneswar Kumar Garg, director-general of the staff college, which is the training ground for all railway officers.

Professors at the college drum into their trainees that 66 per cent of all railway accidents are caused by human error; this will continue unless operational staff show greater commitment towards and concern for their duty.

A senior professor referred to the Gaisal accident of August 1999 as an instance. When the Brahmaputra Mail rammed into the Awadh-Assam Express 285 were killed and 312 injured.

“There was a fault by officers and staff at seven levels. The accident could have been averted if the lapses had been detected at any one level. We are ashamed of that particular accident,” he said.

That was the worst accident in railway minister Nitish Kumar’s first tenure and had prompted him to resign. His second tenure began in March 2001 and continues after the recent resignation glitch.

According to the staff college, derailment constitutes 75 per cent of all accidents. Around 13 per cent of accidents lead to deaths and derailments account for more than half of all deaths.

As part of the special emphasis on safety, the Zonal Electric Training Centre here has developed a self-evaluation objective module called Gyan Kasauti.

The centre trains drivers and assistant drivers.

“Drivers and assistant drivers answer questions similar to a participant in (TV quiz show) Kaun Banega Crorepati and this has become popular with their performance going up by 70-80 per cent,” G.. Asthana, divisional railway manager, Western Railway, said.

“We believe these kinds of evaluations help improve the teaching skills and they too are not under pressure while taking the courses.”

The staff college, on the other hand, educates officers — both incumbent and new recruits — about the challenges before the railway.

These include providing safe, efficient and economical transport; winning market share in transport sector, particularly in goods traffic in the face of competition from roads; generating surplus to meet dividend liability, and raising funds for timely renewal of assets and development.

“Rules and system for operation of trains on the network should be practical and evolved from the experience gained over the years as well as compatible with newer technology for running faster, longer and heavier trains optimally,” Pramod Uniyal, deputy director-general of the staff college, said.

“The strategies adopted by us focus on inspections, maintenance, monitoring, training and technology inputs.”

The college also provides training for detailed and rigorous inspection and maintenance of infrastructure and rolling stock to prevent breakdown.

Officers are educated about the importance of following norms prescribed for renewals and overhauls, constant upgradation of tools and manpower skills, and modern materials management to ensure availability of quality spares.

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