A month before the Utkal Express accident, the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) S K Pathak had raised concerns about the quality of personnel serving in the Railway’s safety category posts.
In a letter to R K Kulshrestha, General Manager, Northern Railway, which is dated July 17, Pathak had raised doubts on whether the staff was hired giving due regard to the prescribed qualifications.
Kulshrestha was sent on leave following the Utkal Express accident on Saturday.
The letter raised some serious concerns about the safety of passengers travelling on trains. The Commissioner of Railway Safety falls under the Ministry of Civil Aviation and it was done to ensure independent probe by a government agency.
“Most of the recent railway accidents are due to human error. This is a serious reason for concern. It appears that the Railways has failed to ensuring that the newly recruited staff in engineering, signal and telecom, traction departments are adequately trained,” said the commissioner of railway safety.
In Utkal derailment, the Railway Board has accepted negligence by its staff and three topmost railways officers, including Railway Board Member Engineering A K Mittal, has been sent on leave based on prime facie evidence.
Pathak said that in the last five years a number of new facilities, including new lines have been opened after statutory inspection and authorisation by the Commission. “While authorising the opening of some of the new assets, The Commission directed the Railways to post adequate number of trained and qualified staff to maintain these new assets,” Pathak said in the letter.
However, he noted that the Commission was not informed about hiring process and whether the staff have been hired giving due regard to the stipulated norms. Expressing concerns over a spurt in train accidents due to human error, the CRS asked railways to furnish details of the number of recruitments done to man the new facilities.
The Commission has asked the Northern Railway to tender a briefing on the process. “It is advised that the status of filling of safety category posts in all new sections already opened may be submitted to the Commission,” said the communiqué. An internal analysis by the Railways found that 87 per cent of all rail accidents occur due to human error. Of these, 51 per cent are due to failure of the railway staff.