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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Railways hasn't met its own safety targets Mahendra Kumar Singh, TNN, Jul 22, 2010, 12.43am IST

Here's one reason why the railways has such a bad safety record. The organization failed to meet targets it had set for itself in the railways' corporate safety plan (2003-2013) -- indicating the low priority it gave to passenger safety. This was revealed in a Comptroller and Auditor General of India's report tabled in Parliament in July last year. Till today, the railways hasn't been able to file an action taken report on CAG's findings.

A senior CAG official told TOI that the railways hadn't even met the targets set for the first phase of the plan. While the railways claims that it had completed 75.05% of the safety related works indicated in the plan by March 31, 2009, CAG officials are amazed at the PSU's delay in sending the ATR on its recommendations.

In the report, CAG had castigated the railways for failing to meet its self-proclaimed goals of modernizing signalling equipment, including installation of anti-collision devices (ACD), maintenance of assets and filling up safety related jobs. CAG pointed out that the railways was supposed to install modern signalling systems in all its zones during 2003-08 but did not come close to achieving this target.

The railways had adopted the 10-year plan in 2003 with the objective of having modern and reliable signalling systems and telecommunication systems, asset upgradation and renewal, maintenance, inspection and human resource development for signalling and telecommunication network.

In the plan, the railways targeted filling up all safety-related posts on priority but CAG found not a single zone had achieved this. In fact, the total safety-related vacancies had mounted to 85,102. The auditor found staff shortage in almost all sections concerning safety, including the operating, electrical, mechanical and civil departments.

Annoyed with the tardy progress, CAG observed that railways had failed to show any improvement in its signalling and telecommunication systems.

The top auditor also sought a review of plans to roll out ACD, observing in its latest report that the installation and functioning of these safety devices were not satisfactory in certain sections.

CAG, while examining the railways' safety performance during 2003-08, found that maintenance had not been done as per schedule in 11 out of 16 zones during the period.

Since April 1, 2007, the railways has been levying a special railway safety surcharge ranging between Rs 2 and Rs 100 per traveller. It was, in fact, supposed to discontinue the surcharge. Railways had claimed that all works planned under the safety fund had been completed by March 31, 2008 at a total cost of Rs 17,000 crore.

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