Railways at ‘Critical Juncture’; Safety to be Priority: Ashwani Lohani

NEW DELHI: Indian Railways is facing a serious perception problem, newly appointed Rail Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani has said in a letter to employees, flagging safety as the focus at the government transporter that ferries more people daily than any other railroad globally.

Lohani was made Railway Board chairman last week after his predecessor AK Mittal resigned following a spate of accidents.

Reaching out to the strong 1.3 million work force of Indian Railways, Lohani said that “we are facing a serious issue with the image perception of the railways” following three derailments in last 10 days.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has taken the moral responsibility of these accidents and offered to resign. However, his resignation is yet to be accepted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On Tuesday morning, nine coaches of a Mumbai-Nagpur train derailed near Kalyan in Maharashtra due to landslides triggered by heavy rains. However, there were no casualties.

“Safety shall remain our focus. We have to always be on our guard to ensure the highest level of safety in train operations and instill a renewed sense of confidence in our esteemed passengers,” Lohani wrote in the letter, calling the accidents unfortunate. He also highlighted the problem of the deteriorating operating ratio of the national transporter.

Operating ratio is the money spent to earn every Rs 100. The Railways currently has an operating ratio of 95 (which means to earn every Rs 100, it spent Rs 95), leaving it with very little funds for safety. “Our operating ratio needs to be brought down considerably – not only by reducing expenditure but also by increasing freight loading and finding other means non-conventional revenue generation,” he said in the letter.

Lohani, a railway service officer of the 1980 batch and former CMD of Air India, also asked the Railways to do away with the practice of excess protocols for officers and focus on delivery instead.