CHENNAI: In a significant decision on safety of train operations, the railways has reduced punishment for loco pilots for jumping red signal. The decision taken by the Railway Board came with many loco pilots refusing to operate trains higher than their actual grade citing stringent punishment for minor violations.
Besides, the All India Loco Running Staff Association said pilots are being subjected to harsh punishment such as removal of service or compulsory retirement for minor negligence. According to railway board norms, in case of shortage of adequate loco pilots, they can be engaged to operate trains higher than their actual posts. That is a passenger loco pilot can operate express and super fast trains, while goods loco pilot can operate a passenger and express trains.
Gripped by fear of losing their jobs for making operational errors, many loco pilots refused to operate trains higher than their actual grade. Particularly, in TN and other parts of India, many loco pilots had been terminated for crossing the danger signal up to two metres even when no accident was reported.
An order to this effect issued to Southern Railway on Monday said when a train crosses the stop signal at station, but stops within 180 metres to 400 metres, post or grade of loco pilots and assistant loco pilots who drive the engine should be downgraded to one level. “Loco pilots should be downgraded as loco shunters for the period of two years. During the period their increments also will be postponed,” said a board order.
Similarly, jumping gate signals at manned level-crossings and shunting signals also will attract downgrading of posts for two years.
The stringent punishment of removal from service will continue if the train is driven beyond 400 metres after crossing the danger signal, a maximum distance prescribed for safe operation of other trains if the locomotive is fitted with Automatic Warning System (AWS) and Train Protection & Warning System (TPWS).
All India Loco Running Staff Association general secretary V Balachandran said removing loco pilots from service for jumping the red signal has not reduced train accidents in any part of the country.