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Railway Ministry seeks zones' views after Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety red-flags new norms

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NewsDrum Desk
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New Delhi, Apr 3 (PTI) The Railway Ministry has asked the railway zones for their views on the recent amendments in train operation norms, after the Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety (CCRS) suggested it to withdraw these changes while red-flagging an increase in the number of serious accidents.

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The CCRS, the apex rail safety authority under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, said that there were five serious accidents from April 1 and October 31 last year as against two cases in the corresponding period in 2022-23 and that the amendments might increase the chances of train collisions in future.

The CCRS raised the safety concern after the Railway Ministry amended general rules of train traffic operations on July 21 and July 25 in 2023 and provided flexibility to zonal railways to allow simultaneous movement of trains on non-isolated lines in station yards.

"Non-isolated lines are those additional rail tracks in big yards which are permanently connected to the running lines without having any interlocking or signalling system. These lines are used as siding for shunting of locos or coaches," a railway safety expert said.

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"According to previous norms, if a train operated on running or main line, other trains on non-isolated lines were not permitted to move. However, the new norm has reversed it and allowed simultaneous operations on running as well as non-isolated lines," the expert added.

Responding to these changes, the CCRS wrote to the Railway Board on November 23 last year and red-flagged various safety concerns along with its suggestion to withdraw these amendments.

"Though the total number of consequential accidents in the year 2023-24 till 31.10.2023 (25 numbers) is the same as the corresponding period of 2022-23, serious accidents involving casualties/grievous injuries to passengers have increased,” the CCRS said.

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"There are five serious accident cases being inquired into by the Commission of Railway Safety in FY 2023-24 up to 31.10.2023, as against two accident cases in corresponding period of FY 2022-23,” it added.

According to the CCRS, out of these five cases, three cases are of collision, one of derailment and one of fire cases. “Out of three collision cases that occurred this year, two cases are due to Signal passing at Danger (SPAD) by Loco Pilot (LP) and one due to error by signalling staff,” the CCRS said.

Questioning the flexibility given to zonal railways to allow simultaneous train movements on non-isolated lines in station yard, the CCRS said, “This scenario is likely to increase chances of collision due to SPAD. The Commission of Railway Safety is of the view that these amendments should be withdrawn.” The CCRS has also raised several other issues related to operational safety such as making a provision of gantry signals, fixing speed restrictions at caution signals, having fog safety devices in all trains throughout the year and regular counselling of loco-pilots.

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However, the written communication circulated by the Railway Board to zones suggest that the views have been sought only with regard to the simultaneous movement of trains on non-isolated lines in station yards.

Referring to the CCRS concern, the Railway Ministry asked all railway zones on February 26 this year to provide details of the number of cases in which the amended norm has been utilised along with their experience and opinion.

On March 19, the ministry sent a reminder to all zonal railways (except Southern Railway).

The ministry has already set up a committee to study these amendments in the general rules and come out with recommendations. PTI JP SMN SMN

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