Crumbling tracks, indifferent attitude of staff blamed for frequent train derailments

Updated 11 May 2020

Email

Finding says low-grade employees are made scapegoat after each accident. — AFP/File
Finding says low-grade employees are made scapegoat after each accident. — AFP/File

LAHORE: Crumbling rail tracks, overloading and speed of trains and indifferent attitude of a majority of the Pakistan Railways’ (PR) staff have been identified as major reasons of frequent derailments of goods and passenger trains.

Since the situation has been rapidly worsening, particularly for the last one year or so, those entrusted with the task to probe these issues find scapegoats in junior staffers like drivers and assistants and avoid laying any blame on senior officials, says a report of the PR.

Sources said it was in the backdrop of this report that senior officials were snubbed at a meeting jointly presided over by federal Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmad and federal Secretary/Chairman of PR Board Dr Habibur Rehman Gilani at the PR headquarters here on Saturday.

“Frequent derailments and accidents not only pose a threat to the lives of people but also damage precious assets like locomotives, wagons, coaches, track and other equipment of the rail system. For what purpose you people are sitting here [in the PR headquarters] if you don’t share any blame and keep punishing low grade officials alone?” an official privy to the meeting quoted Mr Gilani as expressing his anger at senior officials. “If you don’t want to take such issues seriously, OK, you do what you like and we will do whatever we can to control the derailments.”

Though the passenger train operation has been suspended since March 25 due to ongoing lockdown in the country in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, the PR is continuing its goods train service to earn some revenue.

Finding says low-grade employees are made scapegoat after each accident

Recently, the PR faced a couple of horrible derailments, one on the main line in Sindh in which 17 wagons derailed. It caused a loss of millions of rupees to the PR as several coaches and a locomotive were either destroyed or damaged.

“If the driver is inexperienced or he indulges in over-speeding leading to an accident, who takes the decision to depute him to pilot the train? Why you are making us fool?” the PR board chairman said when one of the senior officers tried to explain the reasons behind the accidents.

At this point, Minister Sheikh Rashid intervened and lent support to the chairman’s stance, the official said.

After the accidents, the top management decided to get a separate inquiry conducted by the PR police. The PR police inspector general was asked to assign this task to the special branch that conducted this probe by visiting the accident sites and collecting evidence.

“During inquiry, the special branch police team concluded that the recent derailments of goods’ trains were due to dilapidated rail track, negligent and indifferent attitude of the officers, over-speeding and overloading,” the official quoted the report as having said.

He said the PR management, in the light of the report, had decided to devise a policy to control the increasing accidents.

The official said the indifferent attitude of the officials was a serious issue. “Attitude is a key that reflects someone’s commitment towards doing any work. And if the officials develop indifferent attitude, habit or approach, it means the organisation they are working for is heading towards collapse,” he quoted the report as saying.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2020