Engineering Dept.of Pune Division starts Close Monitoring of Works related to Repair and Track Maintenance

CR’s Pune Division on toes after increase in derailment cases. Illegal block repairs carried out by workers but no major mishap reported so far; authorities decide to up their vigil

PUNE: Two train derailments within a span of five days in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh have sent shockwaves across the country. While the Kaifiyat Express derailment resulted in injuring 100 passengers, the Utkal Express accident killed nearly 23. Both the incidents brought to the fore “unofficial” maintenance of railway tracks carried out by contractual workers. Now, taking serious cognizance of the issue, the Pune railway division has decided to maintain the tracks and ensure the safety of commuters.

The railway division’s engineering department has started closely monitoring works related to repair and maintenance of these tracks. While there have been incidents where the contractual workers are caught and fined for not maintaining the tracks properly, fortunately no severe mishaps have taken place in the city so far.

B K Dadabhoy, Pune divisional railway manager, informed, “The workers are always allotted maintenance blocks to carry out repairs. In case of any emergency, a particular block is handed over to them to carry out the work. There is a system of planned maintenance blocks in place. In case of the Utkal Express derailment, the authorities had refused to repair that particular block. However, the workers carried out illegal repairs there. Though after the incident, we have become extra cautious and are conducting round-the-clock surveillance to ensure that the tracks are regularly maintained. Passenger-safety is of prime importance. Also, we do not want to disrupt the train schedule on any of our routes.”

While the railway authorities claim that all is well, Pune-Lonavala trains that run on four tracks are in an urgent need for attention as they are over 40-years-old. The demand to replace or repair these tracks has taken force after a local train in Mumbai’s Mahim Railway Station derailed on Friday morning. Four coaches were thrown off the track and five passengers were reportedly injured.

Harsha Shah, president of the Railway Pravasi Group, lamented, “In March 1978, the Pune to Lonavala local train service had started. These trains are in a worst condition now and need to be replaced on priority basis. Every day, thousands of passengers commute from Lonavla, Talegaon Dabhade, Chinchwad and other stations to Pune. The seats are also damaged and the trains are not maintained regularly.”

When asked about the issue raised by Shah, Dadabhoy explained, “We are currently operating four local trains between Pune and Lonavala and they are maintained properly on a regular basis. As of now, there is no official demand sent to us to get new trains. However, in the coming years, owing to a larger population travelling in these trains, we would need to rope in new ones for the route.”

Meanwhile, talking about the maintenance work, a senior railway official, on condition of anonymity, shared, “Maintenance and repair work of the railway tracks are a continuous process, which are given to the contractors under the Pune railway division. There are instances when the repairs are delayed, resulting in hampering the train schedules some times. We have repeatedly instructed them and even warned not to carry out unofficial maintenance or repair works for any blocks. After the two rail accidents in UP, all the track inspection officials and superiors of the Pune railway division are ensuring stronger vigil on these workers.”