‘Confusing instrument cluster’ on Bombardier rakes worries Motormen

मुंबई Mumbai: Railway officials who are supervising the tests of the Bombardier rakes, which are capable of hitting speeds of 120 kmph, have raised serious safety concerns about the instrument cluster in the train’s cockpit.

Officials said the placement of crucial switches is so different from those on the existing Siemens rakes that it will confuse the motormen. For instance, a switch that will bring down the pantograph – which draws electricity from the overhead wires – is within easy reach to the motorman’s right in the Siemens rake.

But in the Bombardier rake, it is awkwardly placed. Further, another vital instrument in running the train – the speedometer, which motormen frequently use to judge braking distance – is in a virtual blind spot, according to officials.

The first Bombardier will start plying on Mumbai’s tracks in June and will run alongside the existing Siemens rakes. Motormen will pilot both rakes, sometimes even on the same day depending on their shifts, officials said. Officials have now written to the Integral Coach Factory in Chennai demanding that the Bombardier’s instrument cluster are reconfigured to look like the ones on the Siemens rakes.

“Considering the stress motormen are under while driving, we do want them to press a wrong button due to habit,” said an official. “Even for testing we are only using motormen who were trained in Bombardier rakes and do not drive any other train now.” Two Bombardier rakes, which were brought to Mumbai in October 2013, have been undergoing a series of rigorous tests on crucial sections on both WR and CR. CR has completed all tests and will put the Bombardier rakes on the last set of test runs for one month.

A senior CR official recalled incidents from 2010 when trains were inadvertently put on reverse mode.

The incidents happened because turning a similar switch anti-clockwise sent the train forward in the BHEL rakes and backward in a Siemens rake.

A senior motorman from WR said, “Piloting a 12- or a 15-coach train is an extremely stressful job. We have to look out or people crossing tracks and also signals. The railways should insist on one standard design of driving panel for all rakes.”