CAG audit reveals rail accidents caused by staff crunch, poor track maintenance

CAG audit reveals rail accidents caused by staff crunch, poor track maintenance

The Railways is facing a shortage of staff in different safety categories responsible for track maintenance, according to a CAG report tabled in Parliament.

The staff crunch  ranges from 9 to 22% in its different zones

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report said that from 2014-2015 to 2016-2017, 16 accidents or derailments took place due to deficient track maintenance in five zonal railways (South Western Railway, North Central Railway (NCR), East Central Railway (ECR), South Eastern Railway (SER) and Southern Railway).

The audit covered the period from April 1, 2016, to March 31, 2017, focusing on maintenance of tracks on select 29 sections of high-density network routes (HDN) and eight sections of non-HDN routes.

All zonal railways should prepare an integrated track maintenance plan for day to day activities as well as periodical maintenance and condition monitoring using machines such as the ultrasonic flaw detection systems (USFD) and track recording cars, said the top auditor.

"Audit of 37 select sections of the Indian Railways showed that track maintenance activities needed to be strengthened and undertaken following the laid down instructions and guidelines.... Inspections were not being done as per laid down frequency by railway officials," the report said.

It also said that patrol men were not equipped with any communication equipment to report any failure, fracture or damage immediately from the affected sections.

It also said that patrolling and inspection of tracks should be done as per norms and the teams should be equipped with GPS enabled devices.

The report also stated that deep screening of ballast, which is required to restore the resilience and elasticity of the ballast bed and for improving running quality of track had a significant backlog and in some sections, it was overdue for one to 22 years.

The audit noticed 274 cases of rail fractures and 465 cases of weld fractures during 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 in some zones. During this time seven accidents occurred due to rail fractures, it said.

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