Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sri. Pradeep Kumar Saxena,
General Manager,
South Western Railway,

Respected Sir, 

Sub: Suggestions to reduce SPAD.

At the outset we hope that your good office will have the patience to go through this letter which will certainly help to reduce SPAD cases in railways.
Signal passing at danger (SPAD) cases has increased much in Indian railways. South Western Railway too is no exception. Even though the harshest punishment of removal (given to any railway employee) is readily given to the Loco Pilots and Asst. Loco Pilots involved in SPAD cases, there is no respite from the number of SPAD cases. Considering the fact that no loco running staff will ever commit a SPAD intentionally, as he is well aware of the consequences (even to the brink of committing suicide), then definitely there must be other reasons also behind most of the SPAD cases, which the railways does not bother to address or pretend to be ignorant of.
We would like to point out the lacunas in the system which contributes major part in SPAD.
1) We observed that S&T staff are doing so many malpractices and short cut methods which leads to SPAD. They are opening the relay room without making entries in registers with the connivance of SM.  To avoid this, relay room should be under constant and uninterrupted CCTV surveillance.  We are sure that S&T department will never agree to this, because then they cannot escape from their mistakes. Before giving a capital punishment railway administration should think whether the system is fool proof.
1A)  Signals:  Sir, as you already knows Signals play a vital role in train movements, be it Absolute or Automatic sections and hence their visibility to the Crew of the approaching train is detrimental to the safe running/ control of the train.  The observation of signal defects by the Loco Pilot and their entry in the concerned register must be seriously taken care of to rectify the same.   The remarks regarding poor visibility due to incorrect position of the signal post, visibility obstructed by tree branches are never attended by the S&T department.   Certain signals are directly facing the morning or evening sunlight.  In such cases the arched shade above each light must be extended so that the signals are very clear even during day time.  These can be done only if the concerned department makes up their mind and also it does not incur any major expenditure compared to the safety achieved. 
2) The Loco Inspectors whose prime duty is monitoring, teaching and upgrading the knowledge of the running staff.  But unfortunately many of them do not travel in the loco for foot plate inspection. Their foot plate inspection ends in paper and record only.  Practically very few come to the loco to monitor and teach the newly promoted Loco Pilots and newly appointed Asst. Loco Pilots.  This is one of the prime reasons for the increase of SPAD.   As they are not at all responsible for the SPAD and not punished for the same when a Loco Pilot under him commits SPAD, they seems to be less worried about this and are complacent in this matter. They also should be vicariously made liable for the SPAD committed by a staff under him. This will drastically reduce the SPAD incidents. Most of the Loco Inspectors  in SWR are those who hardly worked any goods trains by spending their time as crew controllers, power controllers etc. They do not have much driving experience especially in Goods train. In the recent posting some of them don’t have even 75000 km of foot plate experience.  After getting selected they are working in passenger /Exp. trains to acquire the requisite foot plate experience.   And they are the people who are entrusted with the responsible job of teaching and training the new Loco Pilots in driving Goods/Exp trains.
Asst. Loco Pilots who can play a vital role in avoiding SPAD are not brought under the purview of a Loco Inspector for monitoring. They should also be brought under loco inspectors for monitoring.  Most of the asst loco pilots are not been trained properly in their duties in such emergency situations.  Mock drills have to be conducted for them in this regard.
Even though there are few Loco Inspectors who perform their duties sincerely and efficiently by monitoring Loco Pilots and updating their knowledge and act as a bridge between Officers and Running Staff during conflicts, but performance of most of the loco inspectors are not satisfactory.
They are not maintaining the correct particulars about the staff nominated to him such as alcoholic, any family problems, health problems, etc.
They are not updated with rules especially in other fields.(S&T, Engg,C&W etc). Due to which other departments escapes easily from their mistakes and Loco Pilots become scapegoats.
A study may be conducted to verify the back ground of the loco inspectors, which reveals the truth.
3)The Guards of the trains who can also play a vital role in reducing the SPAD is spared in all the cases so that they are very much complacent and always keeps a 
 “I do not care attitude” towards SPAD.
It is obvious that a much tired Loco Pilot or Asst Loco Pilot may slip to a micro sleep after constant and continuous driving. This fact is scientifically proved in the world and is something which happens without the knowledge of the person. The guards are not at all observing the distant signals which they are supposed to do and alert the loco pilot who approaches a danger signal with much speed. What happens at now is in most of the cases the guards even does not communicates through walkie talkie of their normal duty of clearance of loop lines, speed restrictions and clearance of fouling mark. Their call through walkie talkie will definitely alert any loco pilot who might slip in to the stage of micro sleep which will definitely reduce the possibility of SPAD.   At present nobody bothers to monitor or inspect the guards and they are complacent too much.  This system should be stopped, they should be instructed to be in constant touch with the Loco Pilot and they can even alert the driver even by calling SM through walkie talkie when the train is approaching a danger signal. They should be monitored rigorously to comply with this and should also be accountable for SPAD. Guards are equally responsible for the same and lapses on their part should also be taken up.
4) The Station Masters also should be instructed to alert the loco pilots of the signal if it is in danger, especially at night times and during shunting operations. This will also help the Loco Pilot to be alert if he is in a stage of micro sleep.
 4A) Whenever Running staff applies for leave they are perpetual tension whether their leave will be sanctioned till the day of leave. And most of the times their leave is denied on the popular saying "position is tight/acute, heavy causality, etc." When leave denied they are forced report sick to attend to important work related with family.  When leave is denied he has to work with a depressed mind which is a potential safety hazard in train working.    Running staff should be liberally given Periodic Rest, Leave, and Sick leave.   Then only they can work with a refreshed mind.   The present habit of analysing 6 months-12 months working particulars when the employee applies for 5-10 days of leave should be done away with.   The only solution is filling up of vacancies, even double the required strength then only even if some staff leave the job for greener pastures the effective staff strength will not be affected(please refer the minutes of SPAD meeting recommendations)
5) The running staff should be allowed to have a nap during idle hours which will refresh them and will avoid the possibility of SPAD. The long driving combined with adverse climate a much hostile atmosphere in the driving cab will definitely exhaust a loco pilot. Even if he wants to be alert, his body may not allow him to do so and he will slip to sleep even without his knowledge. A small nap will definitely refresh him.
6) Loco Pilots who try to observe the safety rules are either coerced or harassed to violate this. This causes undue stress in them and makes them potential cause to commit a SPAD. Those who coerce or harass him unnecessarily during the course of duty should be taken up under DAR.
7) Loco Pilots may opt voluntary retirement when he finds difficulties to continue in the job. Unfortunately in quite a number of cases railway denied VR.  A person with personal worries always in his mind and working in this category is definitely a potential safety hazard. Railways should not reject the VR request of such running staff in genuine cases;   otherwise he should not be punished for his mistakes.
8) The present Cab ergonomics also play a vital role in SPAD.
First of all the cab ergonomics itself is unscientific in the locomotives cabs of Indian railways.   Loco cabins are maintained like cattle sheds, without any cleaning or to have a tireless atmosphere. The locos come out of the shed without cleaning even the lookout glass. The unclean floor, sand scattered cabin combined with the temperature of the engine and atmosphere definitely exhausts loco pilots.
The loco motives seats are maintained in such a way that it is unable for the Loco Pilot and Asst. Loco Pilots to sit properly. In case of WDG4 locos, the position of the seat is such that he cannot apply either the fireman emergency brake or the emergency brake provided on the control stand. How can you expect him to apply the emergency brake in emergency to avoid a SPAD when these circumstances prevail?   In most of the locomotives seats are provided far away from the lookout glasses which hamper the visibility and judgment of the Loco Pilot. There is no provision in the cabin to reduce the unbearable high temperature which exhausts and causes fatigue to the engine crew. 
A unique cab design should be adopted for all locomotives.
Most interesting fact is that the heavy sound in cab makes the calling out off signal not audible and Loco Pilot may get confused. The time to make the sound proof cab is already over.
In loco a new alerting system should be provided. After seeing a caution signal or while approaching danger signal a audio alerting system can manually actuated. After seeing a caution alp can press a button to activate this alerting system.
In other countries and in metro railways in our country provides good cab which never leads to an accident. Indian railway has a wrong intension that a good cab will make the driver inactive. Most pathetic factor is that we are sitting in A SEAT WHICH MOVES HIM AWAY FROM THE BRAKE HANDLE WHEN HE WANTS TO APPLY BRAKE.
 9)If we analyze the reason , we can find that most of the stations in Indian railways have the CSR( clear standing room )  just equal to the length of the train , due to which reason the loco pilots has to push the train up to the foot of the signal for the fouling mark to get cleared. Sometimes a last movement pushes from the load, which happens due to the topography and momentum of the train, causes the loco pilot to pass the signal slightly. More over the distance between the track circuit and starter signal has been reduced so as to reduce the cushioning space and increase the proximity of SPAD. According to increased length of the train, the CSR should be increased so as the loco pilot will have more control over the train while stopping. In the present system the loco pilots are more stressed while approaching to a starter and home signals at danger.
In the cases of home signal also he has to push the train until the calling on board which is provided just near to the home signal. In KONKAN RAILWAYYS  there is no calling on board, so Loco Pilot can stop liberally   An increase gap of this board from the home signal can considerably reduce the chances for SPAD.
Double distant should be provided in all the section.
In most of the cases what contributed him to commit a SPAD is not at all ascertained or neglected deliberately. What railways enquire whether just prior to the accident he had the sufficient rest at head quarters or out station? Everybody knows that this rest is insufficient in this modern era comparing to an era when communication and social interactions were less. The recommendations to increase the rest of the running staff are deliberately sidelined. We have also look in to the fact that whether any leave or rest was denied to him prior to him commit the SPAD. This never comes under the purview of enquiry. The kind of harassment the running staff faces during their duty from all quarters is not enquired into. This may seems to be silly for a person who hears it but these are scientifically proven fact by study in many foreign railways.
22 hrs PR in pass and express link still exists in South Western Railway. Means a Loco Pilot is working 365 days in a year. Nowhere in the world may this not happen.
The recommendations of the high power committee in the year 2013, to consider the repercussions and loses caused by the SPAD before being inflicted with the capital punishment of removal from service has fell on deaf ears. Loco pilots have started committed suicide for fear of their losing job after a SPAD. And railways are still conducting the farce enquiries without looking in to the actual situations.  The morality of the running staff is all time low due to this capital punishment.
The report by the High Power Committee in its report in the year 2013 states that
“the existing instructions of minimum punishment  to staff for SPAD cases should be reviewed to ensure that the decision takes in to account the gravity of the offence( repercussions of the SPAD ) and also the loco pilot’s past record” [para]
The railways do not want to go in depth to reasons why SPAD happens. Loco pilots pass signals because the safety measures now the railways have provided is only to find out SPAD cases and not to avoid SPAD cases. No loco pilot will deliberately commit a SPAD because he is well aware that he will be awarded capital punishment.  Railway Employees of all categories works in a safe zone except loco pilots. For example if a station master  tries to makes a mistake , the system is provided in such a way that the mistake would not be allowed to happen in any way, so that he is safe in his duty. A guard is safe in his duty.  Those who are directly involved with train movements other than loco pilots are safe in their duty. But there is no such safety measure for a loco pilot to avoid a SPAD but instead everything is provided in such a way that it is against him.  And railways expect 100 percent efficiency and accuracy from him, expects him to be worked like a programmed computer, expects same efficiency and accuracy from a running staff aged 20 years and 60 years.
Hence there is an urgent need to improve the safety measures in the locomotives and trains to avoid SPAD, until we provide such safety measures it would be cruel to remove a Loco Pilot from service for a harmless, simple, unavoidable SPAD.
Railways do not consider the fact that until he commits a SPAD, he would have been a sincere and careful worker in his duties.  A seconds deviation of his fate in his ardent and long hours of duty makes him eligible for a capital punishment of removal from service and he is been send out of railways gracelessly without considering his past good service.
 If this condition is continued railways will see maximum number of loco pilots commit suicide in near future which will have serious implications.

These suggestions are from the loco pilot community who experienced and can have a greater say in avoiding the cases of SPAD.
We hope that your esteemed offices will look in to the matters pointed out by this organization and do the needful.
Thanking you
Bengaluru,                                                                            yours faithfully,
                                                                                            (C Sunish)
                                                                                        General Secretary
Copy to:


Devarajan said...

kindly send a copy to Minister of Railways also.

Anonymous said...

It is good.you spoke the words micro sleep and slip sleep,to over come this too things alp will accompany you and by calling out the signals energitically and by enjoying your proffession/duty you can overcome the above two said reasons for spad.try to furnish proper/genuine reasons instead of blaming othets

Anonymous said...

The cost of your slip/micro sleep is hundreds of lives,remember that

guard northern railway said...

No Lp is prompt and faithful in his duties
1 Most of Lps come late for sign on.
2. They do not go through the shed order and other safety circulars kept in the lobby.
3. Neither Lp Nor Alp checks the loco and refers log book.
4. They never go through the caution ⚠ order in the lobby and study.
5. They just want to start the train,and reach the destination quickly.
6. Most of Lp do not move from their seats once seated on the chair 💺 as stuck with fevicol.
7. LP rarely checks the loco since it has become a habit.
8. Our body is susceptible to sleep 💤 if we sit on at one place for longer time, hence whenever you find time get up and do some movement,exercise (move your hands,stretch your body etc).
9. Moving makes you feel better and alert.
10. Most of Lp switch off the cab light, which is very dangerous,since it creates an atmosphere for sleep, switch off the cab light when sighting the signal only, again switch it on. So as to keep you alert.
10. Keep good habits.
11. Do not take food which make you drowsy,eg milk and sugar, banana. Before commencing your duty.
12. Most important be sincere in your duty of calling out signal aspects clearly and loudly ( very few are doing).
12. If you feel sleepy 😫 Standup for a few seconds, use horn so as to keep u alert.
13. Last but not the least you are the highest paid person for your job, and working for your dear ones at home.

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