'Number of trains go up, but not staff strength'

'Number of trains go up,  but not staff strength'

After considerable chaos at the helplines on Saturday, officials of South Western Railway (SWR) on Sunday set up a help desk at the Victoria Hospital, where the bodies of the victims have been kept.

However, officials manning the desk had a tough time providing information to the relatives at the hospital and those trying to get information over the phone.

Apart from those confirmed dead, there were still about half-a-dozen passengers whose whereabouts could not be known.

In the absence of any indication of whether the missing were dead or alive, the help desk officials, including Divisional Railway Manager A K Aggarwal and ADRM Sunanda Arul, had a hard time.

Arul told Deccan Herald, “Many passengers in the dead of the night had jumped off the train trying to save themselves, reached nearby hospitals and even contacted the local police. Till we find out their status, how can we confirm to their relatives that they are alive. It is a serious matter. We will have to wait till we are able to conclude if the passenger is dead or alive.”

 While the Railways claim that all safety measures were in place in the ill-fated coach, questions are now being raised on the maintenance of coaches.

A member of the railway users’ committee said, “Many times, maintenance of coaches is taken casually by the staff for various reasons.

“In many instances, the trains coming to the City are the ones which originate from other places and just pass by the stations in Bangalore. In such cases, the maintenance staff has very little time to check all aspects of the coaches. “Also, there is a severe shortage of maintenance staff in the Railways, he said.

A senior official of the SWR said that while government increases the number of trains every year, very little importance is given to recruiting the maintenance staff. “No new posts have been created in the past few years,” said an official on condition of anonymity.

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