A parliamentary standing committee on Tuesday condemned the railways for the “disregard” shown by the Railway Board towards the recommendations of the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) and for not framing safety rules for the operations of goods trains on Dedicated Freight Corridor Corp Ltd. (DFCCIL).
The CRS is under the administrative control of the ministry of civil aviation and deals with matters pertaining to the safety of rail travel and train operations.
“The committee expresses its serious concern at the disregard shown by the Railway Board (RB) towards the recommendations/suggestions of CRS, which has specifically been set up to provide technical guidance on matters relating to safety,” said the parliamentary committee.
Also Read: Railways plans to punish officials for negligence in case of accidents
It further noted, “No rules/regulations exist for DFCCIL or goods trains and no intimation was given to CRS regarding the accidents on DFCCIL routes,”
The standing committee on transport, tourism and culture in its 323rd report stated that despite taking up the matter with the ministry of railways (MoR), they have not yet taken any action and even amended rules without reviewing CRS’ opinion.
The committee further noted, “In 2018, MoR amended rules without considering the opinion of CRS.” Besides, expressing concern, the committee said, “Only 8-10% of accidents are enquired by the CRS, while the rest of the accidents are enquired by railways itself and in such cases, the reports are not even referred to CRS for comments.”
The report also pointed out that in the three recent accidents on DFCCIL, which led to damages higher than the threshold limit of Rs. 2 cr, the Railway Board did not give any intimation to the commission on this.
“Commission has already made a reference to the Railway Board regarding this issue but neither any action was taken nor any reply was received so far,” stated the committee, adding “80% alignment of DFCCIL is parallel to passenger lines of railway which poses a serious threat for passenger’s safety in case of accidents on DFCCIL lines.”
Further slamming the railways, it said this state of affairs will not augur well for a safe environment as the inter-ministerial non-cooperation is neither good for the country nor the institutions they represent.
“It also recommends that regulations should be immediately framed for DFCCIL or goods trains and may be brought under the ambit of CRS,” said the report.
Also Read: Railways to take action against officials responsible for negligence leading to mishaps
The committee also expressed its dismay at the fact that only 8-10% of cases are enquired by CRS, adding “…since CRS is the apex technical institution as regards passenger safety, it should be involved in accident investigation in most of the cases.”
The standing committee recommended that to ensure the impartial working of the CRS, it is essential that the commission works outside the control of both the ministries of railways and civil aviation.
“CRS should have independent technical manpower and autonomy with respect to the administrative, establishment and financial issues,” it said.
“The committee recommends that the CRS may be made an independent autonomous body just like other regulatory institutions of the country to improve efficiency and freedom of action,” the report read.
According to the railways, the number of consequential train accidents has declined from 141 in 2010-11 to 55 in 2019-20 and further to 35 in 2021-22. In the current financial year 23 (up to March 31), three consequential train accidents have taken place, it stated.
It also stated that during train accidents, loss of life and property can be minimized if the rail coaches are as per global safety standards.
“The committee recommends that technology matching global standards should be adopted so as to introduce global standards of safety for Indian rail coaches. A railway station, a coach manufacturing factory/workshop and a stretch of railway track may be selected and bids may be invited from leading global agencies across the world for implementation of the global best standards, which may then serve as a model for other railway stations/railway coach factories/railway tracks across the country,” read the report.
Notably, the Railway Board has instructed all its zonal offices to take strict action against any officer who is found responsible for a train accident or loss of life due to negligence.