Thursday, November 12, 2015

HYDERABAD: Dozens of loco pilots (train drivers) sleep-deprived due to odd working hours are demanding that vacancies be filled and they should be allowed to sleep when off-duty Around 120 Loco pilots in the SCR zone on Monday protested at the Secunderabad station against what they called `donkey workload'.

The sleep-deprived loco pilots are demand ing that they be given adequate time to rest and the huge number of vacancies be filled up. Back to back bookings for next work schedule with only two hours prior notice makes i a difficult drive for them. While buffer staff might be a requirement, the Secunderabad station alone has a vacancy of 190 loco pilots In a number of previous inquiries, sleep deprivation has been found to be a major con tributor to rail accidents, as per officials.

While, instances of flights being delayed due to last minute replacement of pilot (due to scheduled pilot not having adequate rest are not new, but loco pilots, who are responsible for a larger number of passengers' lives continues to remain an ignored lot.

"Being an important station with many originating, terminating and cross -over trains, it is important to maintain a healthy buffer staff here. Loco pilots have a disturbed family life due to the odd hours and work in extremely stressful conditions and not having adequate rest, often contribute to passenger safety violations. Its a haphazard pattern of booking them for the next slot without allow ing rest for even 14 hours at a stretch," said K Sivakumar, divisional secretary, SCR Mazdoor union.

Pilots do not get a single 24 hour stretch of day-off in the entire year and during the 14 hours rest period, they have to attend personal and family needs. "There is link char for booking loco pilots for the next schedule but it is never followed. We are suddenly called during rest period to report to duty within the next two hours. As this is a regular practice sleep is disturbed during the rest period also. Although seniors too agree that it is a problem, there has been no solution to this," said a loco pilot, who did not wish to be named.

Working hours intrude upon driver's social lives and lead to problems of sleep and fatigue."Overshooting a red signal even by an inch can result in loss of the job and these days signals are very frequent. We cannot afford to make a small mistake and it requires high levels of alertness," added another loco pilot.

It has also been found that often accidents happen when the loco pilots return from a short holiday, as they end up attending to personal work, rather than resting during the few work offs they take as they end up using the time for meeting their family and social needs.Also periodically loco pilots would need additional time to look after his social needs and civic obligations."

Addressing the issue, the previous GM of SCR, PK Srivastava had also initiated an awareness campaign for family of loco pilots aimed at educating the family of importance of sleep required by the loco pilots.

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