Thursday, March 13, 2014

Railways change sleepers meant for 40 years in just 3 years

NAGPUR: Is lack of long-term planning proving costly for the Indian Railways? A query under RTI shows that 52kg cement sleepers, having a life of 40 years, were replaced in three years with 60kg under the 'garb' of modernization of tracks.

A query by a retired railway official reveals that 52kg cement sleepers and subsequently rails were laid in 1986 as per a policy decision. Life of these sleepers was supposed to be 40 years. However, the sleepers were being replaced by 1989 with heavier ones (60kg) leaving older ones useless. In Nagpur Division of Central Railway alone 52kg mono block concrete (MBC) sleepers were laid under the tracks by spending over Rs 20 crore (@ Rs 2,000 each).

Thousands of these sleepers were scrapped in three years and those already laid were withdrawn. They are still lying idle at road side stations like Wardha, Sevagram, Amla and others. Railways, however, did not furnish the total cost of 60kg sleepers laid along with replacement of rails. It may amount to hundreds of crores of rupees given the escalation. This is not the case of just one division. Sleepers are being replaced across the country. Central Railway senior divisional engineer (South) HL Kawre denied that the 52kg sleepers and rails were outdated and had gone waste.

"We have 100% utilization for them. There are hundreds of such sleepers and rails being used for secondary renewal in the division," Kawre said. He added Central Railway had asked them to keep them safe for its distribution elsewhere. "Many of these 52kg cement sleepers have already been used for sidings in yards and railway looplines where there is not much load. We also plan to use them for a 54-km defence siding at Pulgaon in future," Kawre said.

However, a section of senior railway officials told TOI change of cement sleepers depends on gross million tonne (GMT) of tracks, which constitute the basic infrastructure of a railway system and bears the burden of coping with ever increasing traffic.

"High speed and heavy axle load operations necessitated upgradation of the track structure from wooden, steel to MBC sleepers. Heavier section and high tensile strength rails are being used and presently 60kg sleepers are being used on 90% of the tracks," they informed.

The RTI activist-officer, however, asks what was the necessity to replace the rails within a period of three years (1986-89) only and waste crores of rupees. As if this were not enough, it is learnt these 60kg sleepers will now be replaced by 65kg. Railway officials say there was no plan to replace 60kg sleepers except on dedicated freight corridors (DFC).

Slippery sleepers

* In 1986, railways installed 52kg sleepers across the country

* Life of these was supposed to be 40 years

* In 1989, railways decided to replace 52kg sleepers with 60kg as part of modernization

* In Nagpur division, Central Railway spent nearly Rs 20 crore on 52 kg sleepers

* Thousands of 52kg sleepers are lying at Sevagram, Wardha, Amla and other stations

* Railways say these are being used at yards, sidings, looplines and other places


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