Amidst the theories surrounding a possible shortcut that may have led to the tragic Balasore train accident, Anil Kumar Lahoti, Chairman of the Railway Board (CRB), emphasized that employees should refrain from resorting to time-saving options as a routine practice.
Lahoti made this statement during a high-level safety meeting, addressing the General Managers and Divisional Rail Managers of Indian Railways. According to sources, the meeting lasted for several hours, extending into the late evening on Tuesday.
“CRB asked to follow the manual and to keep safety, a first priority,” said an officer who was a very part of the meeting in his official capacity.
The high-level safety meeting was called after the train accident in Odisha, which claimed 288 lives and left more than 900 people injured.
While authorities are still dealing with the challenging task of body identification, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has commenced its investigation into the matter.
In his meeting with the staff, the Chairman of the Railway Board emphasized the importance of safety and highlighted that every single person being paid by the railways is responsible for safety.
He directed the Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs) who were present in the meeting to interact with all staff members and assure them regarding any blocks or disconnections that may be required for construction, repair, or maintenance work.
The Chairman also highlighted the need for effective communication and coordination to ensure the safety of operations during such activities.
Experts said that a major challenge that arises in the context of maintenance is the requirement of “blocks”.
These blocks are implemented to ensure a halt in rail traffic and serve as an official intimation to concerned officers and staff, instructing them not to direct trains on a specific track or section.
While this measure helps to prevent accidents, it also impacts punctuality in one way or another. Trains may experience delays or diversions in certain cases, and in some instances, they may even be cancelled.
The safety meeting, which lasted for hours, also had specific instructions to seniors.
“All Senior officials from HQ have been asked to move to the field and spend time with the field staff to understand the systems they are following, their understanding of the working, whether it is correct or not, counselling and correction to be done on the spot. This generally happens,” said the officer.
“We generally talk to our field staff but we have been asked to intensify this too, he added.
During the meeting, a directive was issued regarding the Inter-zonal and Inter-divisional audits. It was emphasized that the frequency of these audits should be increased. A thorough review is required to ensure that all prescribed checks and rules are in place.
The divisions have been instructed to share their Inter-zonal audit program with the respective zones by Wednesday evening, as confirmed by a reliable source.
“Safety meetings are routine meetings that happen after a period of time. However, these meetings can also be called after an accident like such. The meeting on Tuesday was an important one after the train accident,” an officer from Railway Board explains.
Both CRS and CBI inquiries and investigations have begun in the Balasore train accident. On Monday and Tuesday, more than 50 railway staff from both trains, the station, and the zone were called in to provide their documents and statements.
The CRS, as per officials, will also inquire if any repair work was being conducted without following the proper procedure.