'Railways accords high priority to track maintenance'
New Delhi: The railways had taken measures to strengthen the process of maintenance of tracks and improving safety, the national transporter said today, hours after it drew flak in a CAG report for poor maintenance of tracks.
A statement issued by the railways said the government accorded the highest priority to safety in train operations, due to which the number of derailments during the period between April, 2017 and February, 2018 had come down to 53, as compared to 76 from April, 2016 to February, 2017.
In its report, which was tabled in Parliament today, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said from 2014-2015 to 2016-2017, 16 accidents or derailments took place due to deficient track maintenance in the five zonal railways it audited -- South Western Railway, North Central Railway, East Central Railway, South Eastern Railway and Southern Railway.
The audit covered the period from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017, focussing on maintenance of tracks in 29 sections of high-density network (HDN) routes and eight sections of non-HDN routes.
The report said the track-maintenance activities needed to be strengthened. It also said frequent inspections were not being conducted by the railway officials. The railways, however, maintained that track maintenance and renewal was its priority.
In order to liquidate the arrears of track renewal and improve safety in train operations, a Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh of Rs 1,00,000 crore was announced in the Budget for 2017-18, it said, adding that the amount would be spent over a five-year period.
It stated that in view of the shortfall in supply of rails by SAIL vis-a-vis the annual requirement, a decision was taken in September, 2017 to give priority to supply of rails for track renewals, as compared to new construction projects.
The CAG said it had noticed 274 cases of rail fractures and 465 cases of weld fractures in 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 in the selected zones. During the period, seven accidents had occurred due to rail fractures, it added.
It also pointed out that there was a shortage of about 50 per cent traffic blocks as against the demand from the engineering department for maintenance works. The railways, in a statement, said the zones were asked to ensure the availability of traffic blocks for track maintenance, even at the cost of train operations.
It also said from April, 2017 to February, 2018, the renewal of 3,763 kms of old rails was carried out, which was the highest ever rail renewal (primary) for the corresponding period in any financial year.
In January 2018, the renewal of 576 kms of old rails was carried out, which was the best ever progress for any month, it added. For financial year 2017, a target of 4,389 kms of rail renewal was set, which was the highest ever, the railways said, adding that for 2018-19, the target was even higher -- 4,500 kms.
While the CAG report said the trackmen should be provided with GPS-enabled devices, the railways maintained that GPS trackers were being given to the keymen and patrolmen to facilitate a quick response.
This was already done in the West Central Railway zone, the railways said, adding that the work was in progress in the other zones.