Delhi Railway Division bars WhatsApp for Railway Officials during Duty Hours

NEW DELHI: Here’s another addition to the dos and don’ts for railway staff to enhance passenger safety. The operational staff of the railways have been strictly barred from using WhatsApp while on duty. Railway officials have identified the messaging app as a ‘major distraction’ while managing train operations and hence sent out instructions not to use it during working hours.

The circular has been issued by the Delhi division of Indian Railways to its entire operational staff, including drivers, guards, TTE and even station managers. Anyone found violating the orders shall be dealt with strictly, it said. A senior railway official said similar orders will be issued in all divisions since it pertained to railway safety.

“It was noted that several staff associated with the safety department or the operational staff were indulging in WhatsApp and YouTube during working hours. This caused major distraction and thus compromised passenger safety. They have been told not to use these apps and entertainment medium and perform their duty with greater efficiency and alertness,” an official said. The move comes in the wake of a series of rail accidents recently that claimed over 300 lives.

Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani has already asked officers to take all measures to prevent accidents and make rail journey safer. The new circular will be applicable to all maintenance and safety staff such as trackmen, gang men guards on railway crossings, loco pilots and train guards.

Even station managers and superintendents who are primarily responsible for operation of trains at their stations will be prohibited from using WhatsApp on duty. A northern railway official said drivers and guards onboard trains have to be constantly alert and keep watch on the tracks. Not only do they have to monitor train movement in the opposite direction, but also physical obstruction on tracks.

Drivers and guards have to communicate with each other while on the move and at the same, be in touch with station masters at the approaching stations. Any communication by these staff is permitted only through walky talky. A close watch on railway signals and the distance between the train and the next station has to be closely monitored as even a slight mistake could prove to be disastrous.

A loco pilot at Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin station said existing rules also prescribe for such restrictions on staff. He said drivers and guards are required to switch off their phones while on duty. Drivers and guards are not even allowed to leave the locomotive for nature’s call.

Under pressure following a series of train accidents, railway minister Piyush Goyal has given his officials a week’s deadline to clear all railway-related issues and accord top priority to railway safety. He also ordered that 200 officers from the headquarters be assigned to field duty for ground operations and strengthen the safety mechanism.