Indian Railways –
by A.K. Chopra
Institute of Rail Transport
Price: Rs. 250
Priced at Rs 750 (US $25), 298 pages with numerous coloured photographs, the book is available at Institute of Rail Transport, 17, Rail Bhawan, New Delhi 110001;
Phone: +91 11 23384171, +91 11 23384325, +91 11 23303924, +91 11 23304147
Fax: - +91 11 23384005
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Review of the book
Railways fascinate everyone may be young or old. Indian Railways particularly has always remained in public mind more so that it affects every citizen. This book, written by Mr. A. K. Chopra Former MD RailTel Corporation of India and retired General Manager Indian Railways, is unique that it provides insiders view of the Indian Railways and brings out many unknown facts. Some of such excerpts of the book are:
Ø …. it would be amazing to know that a Rajdhani express driver carrying his train at speed of 130 Km/hour between Mumbai and New Delhi has to pass a signal every 30 to 50 seconds. This gives one an idea as to the tremendous load on his concentration and alertness in obeying each and every signal through out his duty, the major part of which is during night time.
Ø For entering the train on a particular track into the station the driver is completely under command of the concerned station staff and the signals provided by them. Therefore, any mistake committed by the station staff by taking ‘Off’ wrong signals or accepting the train into a wrong track leading to an accident, the driver is only a helpless watcher and a victim in case of an accident.
Ø …..large numbers of accidents (70-80 %) have been occurring due to HUMAN FAILURES.
Ø The reduction in collisions from 307 per year in 1950-51 to 9 per year in 2005-06 have come basically with up gradation of station signalling system and Block operation. The total accidents have come down from 8472 in 1950-51 to 229 in 2005-06
Ø Track circuit, a devise to eliminate human error, invented in 1872, which had been universally, adopted the world over to improve Railway safety was never considered essential to improve safety in Indian Railways. Khanna committee on accidents in 2001 reiterated after deliberating the recommendations of all the earlier committees that Railways should ensure that Track circuiting is provided at all the station yards to prevent collisions at stations as this device ensures that no second train can be received on the line already occupied by a train or vehicle.
Ø It was derailment of Ahmedabad Shatabadi Express in which I was myself travelling in September 1997, strengthened my deep convictions that if train disasters are to be minimised there is no escape from improving the communication system to such levels as would enable the train crew held up in any midsection to establish link with adjacent station and control without any loss of time.
Ø At most of the level crossing gates the waiting traffic at a closed gate is like two armies standing opposite to barge in as soon as the gate is opened. This results in chaos and it takes much more time to clear the converging traffic than ordinarily it would take.
Ø The Automatic Signalling provides much more line capacity (15-20 trains per hour) than the conventional lock and block system, which is able to cater 2-3 trains/ hour during peak hour.
Ø In a double line section having traffic of 60 trains each way in 24 hours, station staff has to conduct 10- 12 transactions before dealing with the train at his station. Most of these transactions have to be repeated on an average every 12 minutes. At the time when the trains are bunched or there has been traffic blocks given, the traffic staff comes under tremendous pressure and is unable to perform any other duties.
The book systematically develops the theme that to minimise the incidences of rail disasters big or small, and to reach a level of zero accidents a progressive reduction in the extent of human involvement in train operations is inevitable. To achieve this, the book lays great stress on adoption of advanced technologies.
To develop this central theme the book, written in simple language for any layman to understand, makes a comprehensive examination of rail transport policy in India with special emphasis on safety related investments as also a proper and maximum use of information technology in areas of Signalling, Telecommunications, optimum use of rolling stock and enhancing the existing line capacity in order to make planned railway investment much more effective.
Through numerous actual examples of railway accidents the book establishes the fact that maximum cases of railway accidents are actually due to human failures.
Citing the cases of developed countries which have adopted modern technologies to a level of perfection particularly in Signalling and Telecommunications and thereby making their railway systems virtually accident free, the book traces the evolution of Signalling and Telecommunication systems in Europe and USA and then comes to a comparative assessment of the progress during the corresponding period in the Indian Railways.
The book refers to the detailed studies made by various independent accident inquiry committees appointed by the Government from time to time about the technological deficiencies of the Indian Railways and the recommendations made by these committees particularly in regard to modernising Signalling at stations. The reader has the advantage of access to the analytical assessment of the author to all these recommendations in one place.
The book makes significant revelations of the grave deficiencies in the present institution and practices’ regarding inquiries into railway accidents to show that in many instances of such inquiry findings truth is a big causality. The findings are far removed from reality. The conclusions have been strengthened by the author with reference to representative accidents as they actually occurred.
The book also takes a look at safety in relation to various other aspects like punctuality, safety at level crossings, safety during project execution, and role of optimum utilizations of human resource in contributing to safety. Through these studies the book is expected to serve as an eye opener for policy makers; public at large.
The book finally winds up with the presentation of a most realistic picture of a post accident scenario, the numerous areas of deficiencies in Disaster Managements, as they obtain at present in case of railway accident and offers far reaching suggestions to plug these deficiencies to improve and update the level of disaster management comparable to most developed countries of the world. Laying great emphasis on the role of speediest communications particularly in the first few hours of a rail disaster management, the book discusses on a number of latest wireless technologies and the imperative need for adopting those to save precious human lives as well as to mitigate sufferings until the Indian Railways reach their ultimate goal of accident free service.
In the overall perspective the book is a highly useful treatise on safety on the Indian Railways providing useful information at one place for the media to analyze and have clear information about the railway working, so that they can apprise the public correctly and appropriately, whenever there is a need for the same.
In conclusion one may find that since all the aspects of safety related areas of decision making have been exhaustively brought out in the book drawing reference to latest technologies and advancements, it will be great help and utility to both policy makers, academicians, students of transport economics not only in India but abroad as well, especially in developing countries where railway infrastructure is yet to reach even the level of Indian Railways
Editor: Manohar Khushalani
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