Saturday, March 14, 2015

1. The General Manager,                  2.     The Chief Operations Manager,  Southern Railway,                                 Southern Railway,                               Park Town, Chennai.                                 Park Town, Chennai.

3. The Chief Safety Officer,                4.      The Chief Electrical Engineer,    Southern Railway,                                 Southern Railway,                               Park Town, Chennai.                                 Park Town, Chennai.
Respected Sir,
            In the recent past, there were 11 SPAD cases occurred in TVC division. It may be worth noticing that each of these SPAD on account of passing the departure signal, i.e. the starter, and in all these incidents the train is scheduled to run through the station, but signaled to stop at the station out of course. This peculiarity or the identical circumstances made us to investigate the cause. All are in agreement that no Loco Pilot shall intentionally pass a signal at ON.  An error in judgments, or on some confusion, or over confidence on brake may be the reason to commit a SPAD.

The age old signal combination has been changed, and that the changes were effected first in TVC division, that too station by station on a gradual manner.  While changes started to effect, some stations have the old signal combination and in some new combination of signal.  Moreover the changes have been completed in a span of 16 months.

Before the introduction of the new combination of signal, if the distant signal shows Proceed aspect, that convey a clear message to the crew that the train is being received on Main line and the aspect of next signal – the Home signal – either Proceed or Caution.  In this combination of signal, the crew is very keen to observe the first signal – the Distant signal - and again the crew is very keen to observe the home signal whether it is caution or proceed aspect.  When the Home signal shows proceed aspect, the crew normally will not be so keen, as in the case of distant and home, in observing the dispatch signals thus the departure signal in a way seems to the crew an insignificant one.

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In the new combination of signals, it seems that the Home signal in the mind of crew become insignificant like the departure signal. Now in the new system the Distant signal shows Proceed aspect, convey the meaning that all other signals of the station is cleared, thus the Home signal as well as Starter / Advance starter in a way become insignificant in the mind of the crew.  They will not be as keen about the Home signal as they used to be in the older system.
When the train is scheduled to run through, the crew normally will be in a state of mind that the signals –the Distant, Home and departure signals will be in his favour.  This perception only change when they encounter the signal of the station in the old and new system. In both the systems if the distant signals shows caution aspect the crew will very keen to watch the aspect of the Home signal and on the process to stop at Home signal. Regarding the attention aspect, in the old system it gives a definite meaning that the train is going to be received on Loop line, accordingly Crew shall regulate the speed so as to enter the points at 15/30 kmph speed.  Where as in the new system if Distant shows ‘Attention’ aspect, it will not give a definite meaning as in the old system – it may be received either on Main line or Loop line. This gives a lot of confusion to the crew, whether to reduce the speed to 15 kmph or not.
When the crew observes the most restrictive aspect of the Distant signal, i.e., Caution aspect, they will be very alert and keen to stop at the next signal.  But when the distant signal is observed as taken OFF, they become not so keen to observe the Home signal aspect, combined with effect of the Home signal getting insignificant in their mind with the introduction of new system, it is likely that they may momentarily forget the aspect of the Distant signal which they have observed earlier. This disturbed perception and interpretation of the indication of the signals, and confusion created owing to the introduction of the new system is, we think, the one of the underlying causes for these incidents.
We are not intend to defend, but examining the reasons for the sudden spurt of identical type of SPAD in TVC division, in the backdrop of the introduction of the new changes made, for the first time, with regard to the signal indication system. We too agree that some positive aspects are there in the new combination of signal aspect, but some unforeseen aspect also lies.  When a new system of combination of signals is being introduced, there will normally erupt some wrong concepts, confusions etc, in the mind of the crew, during the transition period.
In TVC division most of signals – especially Home signals situated after a curve, where visibility is restricted to 300 to 400 meters, but in SA, PGT and MAS area the Home signal is visible either from distant signal or from a distance of 600 to 800 meters in advance.  In 60% of the stations in between the Distant and Home signals there is atleast one Gate signal is provided in TVC division.  The visibility of the Home signal starts only after passing the Gate signal and not from the Distant signal.  In some stations, according to SWR, first take off the Gate signal that means if the Gate signal is taken ‘OFF’ the Home signal is in ‘OFF’ aspect.  In some other stations it is in the reverse, that ‘OFF’ aspect of the Gate signal never gives an assurance that Home signal also be taken ‘OFF’.   It may specially noted that most of the stations, the Home signal can be visible after passing the Gate signal.
On enquiring with the S&T department it is come to understand that, where the distance between Gate signal and Home signal  is lesser than 400 meters, without first taking ‘OFF’ Home signal, Gate signal cannot assume ‘OFF’ aspect.  Where the distance is more than 400 meters, the Gate signal and Home signal works as independent signals.  ‘OFF’ aspect of Gate signal not
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give an indication that Home signal also be taken ‘OFF’.  This two types of signal combination is vulnerable to mistaking.  And the whole concept is wrong.  The criteria of 400 meters must be reckoned from where it is visible, not the actual distance between signals.  This creates a lot of confusion in the mind of crew that in which station what combination exist.  Therefore an identical combination be derived atleast where the Home signal could not visible before passing the Gate signal.
  We are not advocating to switch over to old system of combination of signal aspect, but plead that these SPAD cases occurred in the transition period from old to new system, combined with the special position of terrain in TVC division. We also see that in other divisions such as PGT and SA where the same TVC crew works there have not any such SPAD.  In this connection it is our opinion that the terrain and visibility position in TVC division and the introduction of the new signal combination has a bearing on the SPAD.
Regarding the terrain, the peculiarity of the TVC division with undulating section throughout the division is a unique feature. The risk of over speeding or losing punctuality if run below MPS always exits due to this undulating section. However, with the great deal of importance being attached to punctual running of trains and statistics being monitored on various causes leading to loss of punctuality the Loco Pilots are compelled to keep the MPS. In addition, the Loco Pilots encounters more number of signals in danger aspects while working in TVC division, more number of out of course stopping, more stopping stations etc. This sensitive condition put the LP in a crisis and the thought of risk always linger in the mind of the LP thus sometime negatively affecting the absolute concentration needed to be maintained while approaching the signal. The fact that SPAD occurs predominantly in the express train working underscore this effect.
Regarding the visibility, the difference in TVC division compared to other divisions is that the sighting distance of most of the signals are very less or minimum due to curves or other obstructions and the situation that the LPs are not able to see the related signals together at the same time also contribute negatively. In addition to this, the unmindful and frequent changes being made in the signal sequence and location of the signals, as against what ingrained in the minds of the LPs through experience, in TVC division in the recent period created a sense of uncertainty and confusion in the place of the confidence they once used to have regarding signals.  Even there has been occasions when LP suddenly come across a new signal in the section, find no signal in the expected location without any notice issued to the Crew as required in GRS. We can point out numerous incidents in this connection if solicited.
We plead before your esteemed office to view the SPAD cases in TVC in this context too.  Do not dump the crew of TVC as bad.  It may be noted that the very same TVC crew working through PGT and SA divisions are not committing any SPAD in those section.  There are many intriguing factors lies behind a SPAD, not the alertness alone.

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Throwing them out of service on CR even in appeal, and reduction to a lower post / pay for a long period such as 21 years or until retirement is too harsh and destroying not only the employee but also the poor family. Destined to suffer for whole life is something which is unheard of, and it shocks the consciences of many.  We plead that a sympathetic consideration be extended. In the long run the new system will instill the correct perception in the minds of crew.  Transition period is a vulnerable period, and mistakes in this period may be viewed leniently.
It seems that the trend not to allow those involved in SPAD to continue in running duty for the whole service is unwarranted and based on fear psychosis.  If such a decision is against a habitual offender, it will sound well.  It may please be noted that in almost all cases, the Loco Pilot who committed a SPAD has 20 to 25 years of excellent record in running duty.  Succumbing to a human error once in such a long service should not be construed like a habitual offend and the employee should not be barred forever. The experience and record show that nobody reinstated in running duty after SPAD has ever repeated the mistake thereafter. It is also on record that many of these who involved in SPAD were considered as best Loco Pilots having very good track record and graded as ‘A’ for many years.
Yes, there is clear instruction that an ALP should apply the emergency brake when he thinks that the train will pass the signal at ‘ON’.  Does it mean that by application of Emergency brake the train should stop short of signal?  Practically it is not possible.  If the Loco Pilot is not braking at all when the train approaches the signal which is at ‘ON’ it is a different case.  In every SPAD case, your good self should see that the Loco Pilot has applied the brake while approaching the said signal and the ALP naturally expect, up to the last moment, that the train will stop short of the signal. If the ALP tends to apply ‘Emergency brake’ on mere suspicion, that the Loco Pilot could not stop short of the signal, total chaos in the Railways will be the result.
An ALP cannot asses the braking skill of individual Loco Pilot, this skill will differ from one LP to another.  Therefore, the way each Loco Pilot apply brake may vary.  The ALP could realize that the train will pass the signal at ON, only when it becomes definite at the last moment and what best he can do is to reduce the distance travelled past the signal.  This is the fact and reality.  Throwing him out, even though he applied ‘Emergency brake’ in SPAD case is something we could not understand at all.
            In the back drop awarding inhuman punishment to Crew, the TVC Divisional Committee of AILRSA decided to show their anguish, in the process they organize a ‘Dharna’ in front of the DRM office along with their family on   and silence the staff for 5 minutes on 31.03.2015 between 08.00 Hrs and 08.05 Hrs.
                        With regards,                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Yours faithfully,

Ernakulam,                                                                               L.  MONY,                                                 10-03-2015.                                                              Central President / AILRSA.
copy to :
The Chairman, Railway Board, Rail Bhavan, New Delhi.                                                                         The Executive Director (Safety), Railway Board, Rail Bhavan, New Delhi.                                       The Commissioner of Railway Safety, Bengaluru.


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