NEW DELHI: An internal analysis has exposed the Indian Railways’ claims of focus on passenger safety and accident reduction. A case in point is a mission on safety enhancement set up in 2004 that has not yielded required results even after 13 years.
Only one of the 12 projects under the Technology Mission for Railway Safety (TMRS)—formed at an initial cost of Rs.28 crore to develop technological solutions for improving safety—has been implemented.
Even as the implementation under TMRS has been pending, the government set up the Technology Mission Indian Railways (TMIR) in 2015 to address safety issues.
While analysing projects under TMRS and TMIR last month, Railway Board Chairman A K Mittal expressed concerns over inordinate delay in implementation of projects as the Railways failed to rope in the industry for production.
“Issues regarding safety have become even more critical and there seems to be no implementation of TMRS except for one item—wheel impact load detection system (WILD)—which has been installed at 15 locations,” said Mittal in the meeting attended by all stakeholders.
Budget 2017 announced a railway safety fund of Rs.100,000 crore for implementing safety-related projects in the next five years. The Railways has been charting on a ‘Zero Accident Mission’ and delay in any technological interventions like what happened in the case of TMRS could prove detrimental to ensure passenger safety.
According to analysis, IIT-Kanpur transferred nine of 12 technologies to Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) while technology could not be developed in the rest. The mission was for 2004-2009. RDSO is Indian Railways’ research and development wing based in Lucknow.
The funding was jointly made by the Railways, Department of Science and Technology and Ministry of Human Resource Development. Projects ranged from sensors for detecting hotboxes and hot wheels, corrosion prevention of rails, derailment detection devices, on-board diagnostics and satellite imaging for rail navigation.
Concerns over the deliverables was also raised by a high-level safety review committee set up under nuclear scientist Anil Kakodar in 2012.
The committee in its report had highlighted that the mission was a good effort but the role of industry was very limited and IPR (intellectual property rights) policy of Indian Railways was not conducive for promotion of this academia-industry-railway partnership and this led to the unwillingness of industry partners to participate actively.