CAG slams Railways’ on Safety measures; says Delays in Repairs put Lives at Risk

CAG observes Railways not adhering to Railway Board’s instruction for Standardisation of Safety items. CAG also expressed serious concerns on 160% rise in Fire Accidents in passenger coaches

indian-railways-CAGNew Delhi: The federal auditor slammed railways for the delay in sanctioning and completing repair work in old bridges, saying it “posed a threat to human lives.”

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) noted that in 31 out of 102 bridgeworks test checked, railways took on an average 43 months to sanction the bridgeworks after its identification for rehabilitation. There are over 1.36 lakh railway bridges which are an essential part of the Indian Railways network. The existence of a large number of very old bridges identified as due for rehabilitation/ reconstruction is a concern for safe train operations.

The auditor found that there was shortfall in achievement of target in nine zonal railways. There was also under-utilisation of funds to the extent of Rs 60.95 crore on an average per year. The CAG noted that the delay has resulted in operation of train services with speed restrictions. Instances of continued speed restriction were noticed on 87 bridges over 13 zonal railways resulting in extra expenditure of Rs 103.40 crore.

The auditor noted that 96 out of 147 bridges, considered to be prone to brittleness and to be phased-out by end of 2013, are still in existence over five zonal railways. Besides it noticed shortfall in the scheduled inspection of bridges by various levels of inspection authority to the extent of 32.19% which may be a “serious threat” to safety of passengers as the existence of defects of the bridges, if any, may remain unnoticed.

The national auditor also pulled up railways for receiving fake currency notes of the face value of Rs 92.33 lakh during the last five years while reprimanding the transporter for not adhering to the prescribed rules for dealing with such cases.

“The total debits of Rs 92.33 lakh were raised as on July 2014 by banks/cash offices on the selected stations for remitting fake Indian currency notes (FICNs). Though major portion (78.60 per cent) of the debits was made good by the concerned booking staff, the procedure adopted by the railway authorities for dealing with FICNs was not as per the procedures laid down in Cash and Pay Manual of the Railways,” the CAG said.

The CAG, which examined the records for the period from 2010-11 to 2014-15 up to July 2014, cautioned that this led to possibility of re-circulation of fake currency in the open market.

In another report, the CAG found that short circuit, poor maintenance and lack of awareness are major reasons of fire in trains. It also noted that the automatic smoke/fire detection devices in running trains are not properly functional.

The cases of fire accidents in the passenger coaches of Indian Railways jumped 160 per cent between 2012 and 2014 even as they were expected to come down by 80 per cent, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has found.The auditor, in its latest report on Indian Railways tabled in Parliament today, has said short circuit, poor maintenance and lack of awareness are among the major reasons of fire in trains while the automatic smoke and fire detection devices in the running trains are not successfully implemented.

A joint survey conducted by CAG and railway officials found fire prone activities like cigarette smoking, cooking by vendors at stations, carrying of inflammable articles by unauthorised persons, accumulation of empty cardboard boxes and other waste materials were unchecked aggravating the risk of fire.

“Though recommendations are made by high level safety review committee and 12th Five Year Plan for introduction of fire alarm system in coaches for early detection of fire, it has not been successfully implemented,” the report said.

The audit also found a disproportionate revenue sharing formula adopted by the Western Railway and Kutch Railway Company (KRCL) led to undue benefit to the tune of Rs 300 crore to KRCL for the period between July 2006 to March 2014.

The auditor also found Indian Railways could not tap into revenue potential due to delays in construction of private sidings near railways stations. The CAG found in 26 of the 293 private railways sidings, the shortfall in traffic with respect to projects was more than 50 per cent. “No effort was made by railways to review the volume of traffic generated from sidings,” it said.

The CAG also pointed out several issue in the functioning of the Kapurthala Railway Coach factory (RCF). It has delivered only 470 LHB coaches till date leading to the failure of the project aimed at complete switchover to stainless steel coaches by Indian Railways. Also, material worth Rs 31 crore was idling in RCF as the railway board changed the production programme too often.

The report observed that Corporate Safety Plan (CSP) envisaged bringing down the number of accidents by 80% from 2001-02 to 2013 but number of accidents went up by 160% during the period. The loss of human lives in fire accidents in passenger coaches steeply increased from three in 2001-02 to nine in 2011-12, to 32 in 2012-13 and 35 in 2013-14.

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