Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mumbai Mirror | Feb 27, 2016, 

By Kamal Mishra

Experiment to start with WR.

The Western Railway has taken a discretionary clause out of its rulebook to reduce the turnaround time of local trains, thus ensuring their punctuality. In an experiment that will begin soon, motormen will be placed in both ends of the train. 

As per General and Subsidiary Rules of the Indian Railway, trains cannot be run without guards. However, in special cases, senior divisional operation manager or other higher authority can waive this requirement. 

Currently, a guard is stationed at the rear end of the rain while the motorman drives it; when the train reaches the terminating station, the guard and motorman exchange their positions, which takes around 3 minutes. During the trial runs, both cabins will have motormen so that the train has a shorter turnaround time at the terminating station - the moment the train arrives at the last station, the motorman at the other end will take the train on its return journey. 

Ahigh-powered committee had moved the proposal recently and it has been approved unanimously by the railway board. "We received the letter from the railway board recently which has given us the go-ahead for starting the trials," a senior official from Western Railway said. 

Motormen have welcomed the decision as they say it takes them at least three minutes to traverse the length of 12-car trains. Also, it will mean more man hours - and money in the form of overtime pay - for them. At present, WR operates 1,305 services daily and has 460 motormen on its rolls. The sanctioned strength is 570. If the experiment becomes the norm, WR will have to nearly double that number. Till then, serving motormen will be required to put in extra hours. 

The shorter turnaround time, however, will not result in more services. "We already run trains in a gap of four minutes during peak hours. Reducing that gap is technically not feasible but we'll be able to reduce delays which have a cascading effect on the entire system," the official said. 

Train guards, however, are not at all happy with the move. Although the decision does not make guards redundant, it reduces their need for Mumbai locals. If the WR experiment is successful, it is likely to be replicated in Central and Harbour lines as well. 

"Operating trains without guards is not only against the prevailing rules, but can also endanger safety of trains," said Ajay Singh, divisional secretary of WR Mazdoor Sangh. 

A guard is the person technically in-charge of the train. He/she is responsible for ensuring that the station master (directly or indirectly) has authorized the departure of the train from the station. The guard can also direct the motorman to stop the train, or to operate it under his direction, in special circumstances. For instance, in case of signal failure or breakdowns, the driver must consult the guard on how to proceed. The guard usually gives the driver written permission to proceed in emergency situations. 

The guard can operate the emergency brake in emergencies. He is also usually the person who lights the flares and sets up detonators on the tracks if the train stops because of a problem or an accident. The guard exchanges flag or lamp signals with stations on departure and when passing through. 

"We are trying to stall this decision of the railway board as it is not only against the guard cadre but also affects safety of trains," said Singh. Ravinder Bhakar, chief public relations officer of Western Railway, confirmed the development and said that the communication from railway board had recently been received. He did not say when the trials would begin.


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