New Delhi: Three years after Anil Kakodkar-led High Level Safety Review Committee submitted its report to the Railways, Union Minister Suresh Prabhu has asked the Railway Board to submit an implementation plan of its recommendations along with deadlines.
The Railway Board has issues with panel recommendations such as creation of a statutory Railway Safety Authority with enough powers to have a safety oversight on the operational mode of Railways. It is also against the creation of the Member Safety post in the board to oversee safety issues, a job that now comes under the board chairman.
Prabhu recently held a Railway Board meeting and discussed their reservations to the specific recommendations. He also asked the board to prepare an implementation plan with deadlines for recommendations that they have agreed to, so that there is a roadmap on the way forward.
The board is of the view that there is no need for a Railway Safety Authority as a Commission of Railway Safety already exists and if need be, it should be strengthened instead of forming another body. Similar was board’s objection of having Member Safety as that would create another unnecessary bureaucratic post.
The Bibek Debroy Committee, in its final report submitted this month, had also called for adopting the Kakodkar Committee’s recommendations to improve safety.
If the Kakodkar Committee recommendations are accepted, the total financial implication over the five-year period is likely to be Rs 1 lakh crore.
The Kakodkar Committee paints a grim picture of inadequate performance by the Indian Railways, mainly due to poor infrastructure, insufficient resources and lack of empowerment at the functional level. It suggests adoption of advanced signalling system for the entire trunk route length of 19,000 km within 5 years at an estimated cost of Rs 20,000 Crore.
If the Committee’s recommendations are accepted, the total financial implication over the five year period is likely to be Rs 1,00,000 crore. The key observations and recommendations of the Committee are listed below:
- The Committee notes that the ‘present environment on Indian Railways reveals a grim picture of inadequate performance’ largely due to poor infrastructure and resources, and lack of empowerment at the functional level.
- The financial state of Indian Railways is ‘at the brink of collapse’ unless some concrete measures are taken. Passenger fares have not been increased in the last decade and the infrastructure is severely strained. All safety margins have been squeezed. This has led to a neglect of infrastructure maintenance.
- In the present situation, the three vital functions (rule making, operations and the regulation) are all vested in the Railway Board. There is need for an independent mechanism for safety regulation. The Committee recommends the creation of a statutory Railway Safety Authority with enough powers to have a safety oversight on the operational mode of Railways.
- The Research Design and Standards Organization (RDSO), the apex technical wing of the Railways, is highly constrained. This has hampered the ability of the system to internalize emerging technologies. The Committee recommends restructuring of RDSO for greater empowerment. It also recommends that a Railway Research and Development Council (RRDC) be set up directly under the government.
- The Committee recommends the adoption of an Advanced Signalling System (akin to the European Train Control System) for the entire trunk route length of 19,000 km within 5 years. This is estimated to cost Rs 20,000 crore.
- All Level Crossings (both manned and unmanned) should be eliminated over five years. An estimated expenditure of Rs 50,000 crore will be required for achieving this target. The Committee is of the belief that this amount will be recovered within 7-8 years through savings in maintenance costs and improved train operations.
- The Committee also recommends a switch over from the ICF design coaches to the much safer LHB design coaches. This is likely to cost Rs 10,000 crore over the next five years.
- Other Committee recommendations on the maintenance of safety related infrastructure are estimated to cost about Rs 20,000 crore.
Download Full Report here: Anil Kakodkar HLSRC Report