Thursday, September 12, 2013

Shortage of loco pilots and coaches hits special trains

V Ayyappan TNN

Chennai:With the festival season round the corner, Southern Railway is hunting for coaches and loco pilots to run special trains. Due to a shortage of loco pilots, passenger train drivers and occasionally goods train drivers are assigned to special trains.
    Southern Railway is short of coaches and loco pilots because the centralised system of allotment has not helped many zones meet the demand for new and special trains. Sources said “instructions have been given to maximise utilisation of rakes to operate as many special trains as possible during the festival season on popular routes. But, there is a 13% shortage of experienced loco pilots.”
    Rakes of trains that are operated only once or twice a
week are also used as specials to Madurai or Coimbatore. Such rakes are also used to operate daytime special trains.
    However, shortage of assistant loco pilots and loco pilots is a stumbling block before
running specials. “A few loco pilots who operate goods trains are being used to run special trains from Egmore. This can be a safety risk because express trains run at 110km per hour while goods trains are run at a maximum speed of 70km per hour,” said an official.
    The sequence of postings and promotions designed to help a recruit gain experience is also violated to meet demand for manpower. A fresher is posted as assistant loco pilot on a goods train, made assistant on passenger trains, and then promoted as loco pilot and posted to drive a shunting loco.
    After gaining experience driving a shunting loco at slow speed, he/she is posted to run passenger trains and mail or
express trains.
    Southern Railway chief public relations officer D Lakshmanan said, “A special train is operated only if we have adequate loco pilots and coaches. If we do not have them, trains are not operated.” It takes more than a year for fresh recruits to join duty. “Those who were selected in 2011 have just started to join. Many leave during training because of poor pay ( 5,830 plus 1,900) and inconvenient nature of duty,” said an official.
    The training period has been reduced from 52 weeks to 17 weeks so that fresh recruits can join duty quickly. The All India Loco Running Staff Association has demanded that recruitments be held every year to meet shortage of staff.


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