A “tranquility” room for motormen, a calmer ambience around their lobby and creating another lobby in Virar are some of the measures that Western Railway (WR) is set to take to improve safety. These measures were suggested to tackle increasing cases of “Signal Passing at Danger” (SPAD) on suburban railways, which are treated as “averted collisions” and can lead to a motorman’s removal from service.
WR witnessed about three SPAD cases during March-November this year on its suburban network. Every SPAD case is treated as an averted collision as a result of a motorman’s failure to stop the train in time before the signal. It results in serious departmental action following an inquiry. There have been 44 cases of SPAD between 2006 and 2019.
A senior WR official said there has been an increase in number of loco pilots of freight trains being promoted as motormen of suburban locals following a change in Railway Board’s policy in 2014. At least 40 per cent of motormen of Mumbai’s local trains have been drawn from loco pilots of freight trains.
According to officials, the families of most of these loco pilots turned motormen live away from Mumbai in areas like Valsad, Udhna and Vapi. “Most of these motormen do not have their families in Mumbai but travel long distances, which can be stressful. To tackle this, we are working at having a motormen’s lobby in Virar to cut their travel time to work,” a senior WR official said.
Yogesh Vyas, secretary of running staff branch from Churchgate, said, “We are very happy with the new divisional managers’ approach and the new lobby at Virar will help us in cutting down nearly three hours of travelling time daily. But the issues have to be addressed at several levels. Meditation before piloting a train should be included as a part of duty.”
He added that at present the distance between the stop mark and signals in some places is not even 20 metres. Vyas demanded that the training duration of motormen be increased. He pointed out that while earlier a recruit would go through a year-long training, those who come after serving as loco pilots are expected to learn things in four months, which is difficult.
There are at present 570 motormen who operate 1,365 services daily. About 40 per cent of them have been promoted from loco pilots of freight trains. According to Vyas, the working of a loco pilot is very different from motormen, who deal with about 16 traction motors in each train that pick up speed easily while loco pilots deal with only six traction motors, making the switch difficult.
In a bid to curb SPAD cases, WR is also putting up Parallel Auxillary Track Magnets (PATM) on the tracks which get activated if a train passes a specific point at more than the permissible speed. PATM then brings the train to a halt, preventing it from crossing the signal. Chief PRO (WR) Ravinder Bhakar said, “We have put them at 49 locations while at another 27 locations we will install them on priority.”