Callous attitude of railways puts passenger lives at risk
CHOZHAN EXPRESS AT MAYAVARAM STATION
If the four long years in the conversion to broad gauge of the 122km Mayiladuthurai-Villupuram section was not bad enough for the rail passengers, there is now more bad news for passengers looking to travel on the Villupuram Mayavaram rail route.
The consumer protection council (Tamil Nadu) has come up with a revelation that is sure to send shock waves to passengers who have booked tickets for the next two months (summer vacation) to travel on this newly re-opened section.(Incidentally, it looks like the this tickets have been completely booked till end of May on this route on the express trains- Kamban Express/ Madurai Express...)
The council reveals that the safety norms, which are an important pre-requisite for running of trains, has not been followed on this 122km section that was re-opened for traffic last Friday evening.
Different Officers for Preliminary and Final Inspections
It has been reliably learnt that for the first time in the Railway history the preliminary inspection (which was conducted on this track in the 2nd week of February this year) was done by one officer and the final inspection was carried out by another officer, who just did not take cognizance of the strong warning provided in the first report.
The report of Shri. KJS. Naidu Commissioner Railway Safety (CRS) who is from the ministry of civil aviation, had condemned almost in every sentence of his report, the shoddy work done on this track compromising safety norms.
Sources claim that even more shocking was the fact that CCRS (Chief Commissioner Railway Safety) Shri Sudhir Kumar ( in the final certification) had certified the track as safe and recommended the operation of trains on this track albeit at a slower pace. This final report, the sources say, did not make a single reference to the report of CRS and the defects mentioned there in and the pending rectification. This callous attitude had put the lives of passengers at huge risk.
Embankment Pit- Not suitable for Broad Gauge
In the report submitted by CRS earlier, as many as 21 points had been reported for rectification including the fact that the embankment pit which was suitable only for meter gauge had been retained and not widened to suit the requirement of broad gauge operations .
This had created a huge length of embankment which had no cess and as such the prevention of stones or blue metal from sliding and spreading can never be averted. This will therefore cause the ballast (a layer of stones under the rails) to roll down causing safety concern.
Poor Soil Treatment on the track
The consumer protection further claims that the soil treatment on the track had not been properly done. The Soil is believed to have a lot of boulder like lumps that has been dumped on the sides of the old embankment without any compaction. The likely impact of this is that the rails may not be able to withstand the weight of the coaches twice heavier than the Meter Gauge coaches and that this could lead to derailing.
Cracks on Track
Also, in several locations across this stretch, lengthwise cracks had also been notified by Mr. Naidu.
Issues with Bridges
Many NEORPRENE BEARINGS were bulged and cracked. The Bridge inspection had spotted as many as 22 such Bearings. The Girder surface was quite uneven. Ballast profile was not as per specifications and in many locations in-shoulder ballast deficiencies were notified. Also, kinky rail, kinky welds were seen throughout the length and rectification had not been done at all.
Even in major bridges, large number of deficiencies had been observed. The results of pile load test and working pile load test were not provided at all despite the fact that it was demanded to be carried out.
Letter to the Railways
The consumer protection council had detailed all these salient features and had addressed written pleas to the Shri. SS Khurana, the Railway Board Chairman, Rakesh Chopra ( part time chairman of RVNL- Railway Vidyut Nigam Ltd- which executed the gauge conversion work), GM- Southern Railway and Commissioner of Railway Safety- Southern Circle Bangalore.
It is believed that the consumer protection council had met with Shri. E. Ahmed, the minister of state-railways at Chennai recently and had handed over the plea, which he is said to have forwarded to the Member Board-Engineering.
Sources say that with the intention of reducing the burden on the contractor (late delivery charges), the Railway Board had in a haste passed the approval by deploying an alternate member from the safety authorities.
Meeting with GM-Southern Railways on 30th April
It is learnt that the Consumer Protection Council would be meeting the GM- SR later this week. They say that if a positive response was not received, the council may resort to filing a Public Interest Litigation in the court in the interest of the travelling public.
Lack of Amenities
When I travelled over the weekend by the Kamban Express (Chennai Nagore), Railway officials in that train stated that there were as many as 17 caution points including signal issues on the Villupuram-Mayiladuthurai Section and hence the train will go at a slow speed on this stretch.
It was also noted during this trip that several of the stations remained in very partial completion stage as far as passenger amenities and platform up-gradation including in stations like Chidambaram, Sirkazhi.
At an important tourist station like Kumbakonam, the railway official there indicated that there were currently no retiring rooms at the station and this was unlikely to come up in the foreseeable future. There are just 6 dormitories at the station.