News Railways

995 loco pilots failed breathalyser tests in 5 years, says RTI reply, ET Infra


Nearly 1,000 loco pilots failed breathalyser tests in three zones in the last five years, a third of them at the moment of signing off from a shift, says an RTI query reply.

It’s New Delhi that recorded the highest number of these infractions. A shocking 471 loco pilots here — 181 (38%) of them drivers of passenger trains — failed breathalyser tests during this period; 189 of them immediately after a stint in the driver’s cabin.

Even in Gujarat, where alcohol is banned, 104 drivers failed breathalyser tests — 41 of them pilots of passenger trains.

Mumbai fared better on this count, though having even one tipsy train driver is one too much. Eleven loco pilots, three of them of passenger trains, failed the test in Mumbai.

If there’s anything scarier, it’s what we don’t know. Jabalpur railway division, for instance, said in its RTI reply that it doesn’t keep such records, while Bhopal flatly refused to give out the information.

The RTI data — in response to queries from activist Chandrashekhar Gaur in MP’s Neemuch — covers Western Railway, Northern Railway and West Central Railway zones. The railways routinely carries out breathalyser tests as a safety measure to prevent consumption of alcohol during duty hours. RTI responses to Gaur’s queries say 995 loco pilots failed the test.

Western Railway has said that 273 loco pilots, including 82 who were driving passenger trains, had failed the alcohol test. Ratlam division, with 158 such cases, including 32 of passenger trains, had the maximum.

The WR reply didn’t specify if they failed the breathalyser test before signing in for work or after the shift, but said 44 were caught out in Ahmedabad, 37 in Vadodara, 15 in Rajkot and eight in Bhavnagar between January 2020 and September 2023.

Delhi division of Northern Railways said that 181 loco pilots of passenger trains and 290 of goods trains failed breathalyser tests in the past five years. Of them, 75 passenger train pilots and 114 of goods trains were tested soon after they signed off from work. Moradabad came next, with 138 infractions, including 108 who failed the test after signing off duty. Seventeen failed in Lucknow division.

Kota division in WCR said 40 loco pilots failed breathalyser tests, a quarter of them while signing off work.

Gaur said, “It is appreciable that the railways conducts such tests before crew members sign in for their shift, but it is scary to know that so many loco pilots tested positive for alcohol after signing off from work. The railways should increase the number of tests and go for random testing.”

Disciplinary action is taken against such loco pilots, WCR’s central PRO, Harshit Shrivastav, told TOI. A letter circulated to all chief safety officers by the railway ministry in 2012 says that if a loco pilot is found to have an alcohol level of 1-20 mg/100ml then they should be taken off duty and it should be marked on their service record. Those detected with alcohol levels above 20mg/100 ml should be removed from service, it says.

  • Published On Nov 27, 2023 at 08:17 AM IST

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