The Utkal Express derailment in Uttar Pradesh where 23 died was allegedly caused because the engineering department was carrying out ‘unofficial’ maintenance to repair tracks.
This means that a ‘line block’ permission to slow down trains on a section of track or divert them through the other track was not taken from the Operations Department, which ultimately led to the train running on weak tracks and derailing.
Such a situation is unlikely to happen in the Chennai division of Southern Railway, say official sources. This is because, two years ago, the division devised a systematic method of handling track renewal works which would have to be requested a day in advance.
For instance, on Monday evening, Southern Railway issued a press release that there would be line and power block on Chennai-Gudur section to facilitate engineering works for constructing a limited use subway at Nayadupeta.
“The engineering department has to send in their requests a day in advance. This will be sent to a senior official of the divisional operating department who will either give permission or reject it. But in any case, the process will be on paper by the previous day evening,” said a senior railway official. A dedicated log is also maintained which can nail those flouting rules. This was devised based on learnings from Mumbai railway division, say sources.
This prevents shortcuts from the section engineers on the field and also gives them enough time to channelize manpower and resources for the work.
Track renewal work is very important as most important lines in Indian Railways are over-stressed. But due to high frequency of trains, maintenance time for tracks is less. “Planning in advance helps iron out the inter-departmental differences and also improve safety ,” another official said.