Sunday, December 10, 2017

S. Anil Radhakrishnan THE HINDU THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:, DECEMBER 09, 2017 


The Thiruvananthapuram Central Railway Station. (FILE) Photo: S. Gopakumar 

Cancellation of eights services puts short-distance commuters in difficulty


Shortage of loco pilots, assistant loco pilots, and crew controllers in the Thiruvananthapuram Railway Division has hit operations and made travelling a nightmare for commuters, especially short-distance passengers.

The shortage of loco pilots and assistant loco pilots has been put at 15% of the 642 sanctioned posts, which has been exposed by the cancellation of two pairs of passenger trains and two pairs of Mainline Electric Multiple Units (MEMU) services for two months starting from Saturday.


Cancelled services

With Railways making no alternative arrangements for the eight cancelled services, short-distance daily commuters on the Ernakulam-Kollam stretch who depend on these trains are at the receiving end.

Railways authorities cite operational reasons such as ensuring crew for freight and ballast trains for the cancellation of the trains.

This will help create a maintenance corridor-line block between two express trains to replace defective rails, sleepers, and take up critical maintenance works.


Low patronage

Railways have also cited low patronage as another reason for the move.

“The lack of proper planning on the part of the divisional authorities and the delay in recruitment of assistant loco pilots by the RRB Thiruvananthapuram have resulted in the cancellation of trains, loss to Railways, and hardships to commuters,” says P.N. Soman, Zonal Organising Secretary of the All India Loco Running Staff Association.


Reluctance to relieve

He said the reluctance of the authorities to relieve 60 assistant loco pilots who were working in Hubli, Chennai, Salem, Palakkad, and other divisions and had sought transfer to Kerala had compounded the problem.

In the Palakkad division, 13 assistant loco pilots from Karnataka recruited by the Bengalaru Railway Recruitment Board had joined the Mangaluru and Kozhikode depots.

“The train crew is working under heavy pressure and are being denied 40-hour rest in a week, which will affect the safety of rail operations,” he says.

No steps had been taken to replace those declared medically unfit and those who are seeking voluntary retirement from services.

“A fresher needs eight years to become a full-fledged loco pilot to take over mail and express train and the present situation is going to turn worse,” Mr. Soman says.

According to the officials in Railways, the possibility of alternative train services and additional stoppages for regular trains are being ascertained.

The train services may also be restored earlier based on the review of works.

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