At last, toilets in train engines

That its train engine drivers, or loco-pilots as it calls them now, work under extremely stressful conditions has been Indian Railways’ worst kept secret.

Relief junction: Train engines now to have toilet facility for first time

In fact, the stress levels of loco-pilots have often been blamed for many rail accidents in recent years. And now, a panel looking into the matter has zeroed in on a very basic facility, the lack of which has added substantially to stress levels of these men: toilets inside locomotives.

The committee “to review the duty hours of running and other safety related categories of staff” has recommended “a suitable waterless type urinal” on “every locomotive as an immediate measure” to take care of the problem.

“Difficulties are being experienced by the loco running staff at present due to non-availability of toilets in the locomotives. The problem is much more on super fast trains which run for 4 to 5 hours continuously at a stretch without any stoppage,” the committee, headed by former food processing secretary D P Tripathi, has said.

The report, which was submitted to the railways ministry, has stressed the need for toilets in locos saying this “problem is likely to get further aggravated in future with more and more induction of ladies in loco running cadre”.

Even on faster long-distance trains such as the Rajdhanis and Shatabdis, loco-pilots have had to contend with travelling long distances without a toilet break until now. The only time they could use a toilet has been during halts at intermediary stations, having had little option but to “hold on”.

In point-to-point non-stop Duronto trains, the only “window” the loco-pilots have for a toilet break is during the train’s technical halts.

Privately, officials admit that there have been instances when

a loco-pilot had to stop the train in the middle of a section to relieve himself.

“A few months back, we came up with a prototype of a retro-fitted toilet in a diesel locomotives. All we are now awaiting is a policy decision from the Railway Board on the matter. The recommendations of this committee will only help us get a stronger mandate to do the same,” a senior railway official said.

In 2010, a team of railway doctors had carried out a detailed study on the working of loco-pilots to identify their stress levels and the factors responsible for stress build-up. As many as 100 loco-pilots were part of this study and while most of the findings-from postural discomfort and non-spacious and noisy workplace to long duty hours with improper rest-were on expected lines, “the absence of toilets” in locomotives came as a revelation.

In addition to toilets, the report has recommended an overall makeover of the locomotives-ranging from air-conditioning the cabin to providing cameras along with a display unit that can ensure that loco-pilots don’t have to peep out of the window and look back frequently for viewing the train formation and the guard’s signal.

Air-conditioning has been proposed as the committee found temperatures inside loco cabins during summers were “quite unbearable”— as high as 61 degrees celsius in diesel locos and 51.8 degrees celsius in electric locos.

Golden Rock Loco Shed adjuged the best

The Golden Rock locomotive shed, home for many variants of diesel locomotives here has been adjudged the best among the four loco sheds in the Southern Railway zone in the 2012-13 fiscal.

The 41-year-old Tiruchi shed, the largest and the lone shed in the zone to home high horsepower EMD locomotives, bagged the ‘Performance Efficiency Shield’ for the fifth time. The shield was presented to the Tiruchi shed recently, after taking into account various parameters including less number of loco failures homed by the shed, less consumption of lubricants, less cycle time for heavy schedules and for carrying out crew-friendly modifications in the diesel engines.

The other diesel loco sheds in the zone are located at Erode, Ernakulam and Tondiarpet in Chennai. The shield was constituted in 2004-05, and the Tiruchi shed has bagged it five times, say railway officials.

Among the four sheds, Golden Rock accounts for maximum holding of diesel locomotives with the figure reaching 163 including over 90 ‘Alco’ locos and several ‘EMD’ locos which are capable of reaching a maximum speed of 120 kilometres per hour.

The Tiruchi shed has so far received 42 ‘EMD’ locos equipped with micro processors are longer and powerful than the ‘Alco’ diesel locos. The 4,500 horsepower EMD locos have better fuel efficiency than the conventional diesel engines and have higher fuel and lubricant oil capacity. Officials said eight more EMD locos were expected which would increase the tally to 50.

Facilities available

Additional infrastructure facilities have been created in the loco shed to home the EMD locos. Two new bays with elevated platforms have been constructed inside the sprawling shed to exclusively accommodate EMD locos. The bays can accommodate five such locos at a time, say officials. The Tiruchi shed is the only one in Southern Railway to have a Diesel Traction Training Centre (DTTC) within its premises to impart theoretical and field level training for newly recruited Assistant Loco Pilots, maintenance engineers and staff. Refresher courses are organised by the DTTC for Loco Pilots and Assistant Loco Pilots already in service periodically, say officials.

Railway engines to get National Institute of Design makeover

Driving trains will soon become a comparatively cushy job in the near future. For the first time, diesel engines are set to get a complete makeover in terms of aesthetics and ergonomics. The National Institute of Design (NID) in collaboration with Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW), Varanasi, is redesigning the interior and exterior of the engines from the drivers’ perspective.

The changes aim to make train driving a cool affair. For the first time in the history of Indian Railways, the drivers’ cabins will be air-conditioned and kept warm during winters with heaters. “Loco pilots operate in extreme conditions and through new design, we intend to provide them comfortable working conditions ,” said Praveen Nahar, senior faculty , NID.

The focus will be on providing better visibility to the drivers and better inner ambiance. “Visibility is the most important factor. We aim to minimize visual obstructions and increase leg space,” added Nahar.

The engines will also get brighter colours , new toilet design and windshield. “Providing better working environment and a new colour scheme are among the main changes,” said Balaji Rangarajan, faculty, NID and head of the project.

It was fatigue among the drivers that prompted DLW to go for complete renovation . “Sometimes, loco pilots work under very stressful conditions. They have to deal with vibration, noise, heat…” said Amit Kumar Agarwal, chief designer , DLW. “I have been a driver myself. The decision for a makeover was taken after many consultations with loco pilots.”

Every year, DLW manufactures 150 WDG 4 engines (diesel engines). Currently , there are 800 of these on the tracks and over 20,000 loco pilots operate them. With the new design, DLW also aims to attract customers from different countries and expand their export market.

A lot of research for the project has also been carried out at Drivers Training institute in Sabarmati.

Loco pilots to get AC comfort

Loco pilots of Southern Railway can soon look forward to working in the comfort of air-conditioned diesel locomotives.

For the first time, Southern Railway will put into operation new air-conditioned ‘EMD’ type diesel engines with dual cabins to haul long distance mail, express and superfast trains.

Four such locos with high horsepower and improved ambience, manufactured by the Varanasi-based Diesel Loco Works, are housed at Tiruchi Diesel Loco Shed.

The Tiruchi shed is the first in South India to house air-conditioned EMD locos.

The swanky locos would be put into operation upon obtaining clearance from the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS).

A trial run of the four locos with wider cabin and ergonomically designed seats was successfully done on the Tiruchi – Dindigul and Dindigul Erode broad gauge sections recently. Orientation programmes are being conducted for loco pilots at Tiruchi, Erode, Madurai and Ernakulam for piloting the new engines.

Each of these locos has been fitted with a 1.5-tonne AC unit in the cabin that is also equipped with a couple of Thin Film Transistor (TFT) display – one each for the Loco Pilot and the Assistant Loco Pilot. The TFT display system would enable the Loco Pilot and the Assistant Loco Pilot to clearly view the performance of the engine and its various parameters on monitors installed right in front of their seats.

The AC-fitted locomotive would ensure Loco Pilots work in a cool atmosphere while piloting the engine, the officer told The Hindu .

To ensure train drivers get sleep, Rlys ropes in families

To ensure safety, the Railways wants its drivers to get a good night’s sleep. And to provide that, it is reaching out to their families, telling them to have in place a conducive atmosphere that allows it.

Zonal railways have been holding interactive sessions with families of loco pilots and assistant loco pilots, telling them nothing at home should come in the way of the drivers’ fill of rest and uninterrupted sleep when they arrive after duty, including household chores.

The move follows increasing incidents of accidents due to train drivers jumping signals. In May last year, 24 people were killed when the driver of Hampi Express had overshot a signal and rammed into the rear of a stationary goods train in Andhra Pradesh.

A set of guidelines reiterated by the Railway Ministry recently also stressed on measures to identify drivers who “indulge in activities other than rest” and to counsel them.

“The sessions are very helpful because when a person is at his home station after long hours of duty, it is natural that he gets caught up in household responsibilities and chores. We have realised that it often prevents them from getting a fair share of sleep before the next assignment,” a senior Railway Ministry official said.

‘Signal Passing At Danger’ — the term used for accidents or near-accidents due to jumping of signals — is often attributed to drivers not being alert enough to spot “stop” signals especially at night.

Recently, K K Srivastava, Member (Traffic), Railway Board, had also issued a letter saying that proper rest for drivers was of paramount importance as cases of signal jumps are increasing due to “non-observance of proper rules”.

“It has been observed that drivers who have been inducted departmentally and drivers who are performing duty after availing headquarters rest are more prone to ‘SPAD’,” Srivastava wrote.

Engine drivers have been complaining for years about long and continuous duty hours depriving them of rest. Their duty hours as a routine stretch beyond 15 hours.

Modern training system for loco pilots to tackle stress

In an attempt to ensure safety of passengers, Railways is mulling to introduce a modern training system for loco pilots which would help them to tackle driving-related stress. The PSU behemoth is facing issues of long duty hours and inadequate rest involving loco pilots. A computerised psychological test package is being procured by Indian Railways for screening and training of train drivers. “The computerised psychological assessment tool measures specific abilities related to the job of loco pilots which include alertness, attentiveness, reaction time, vigilance, speed anticipation among others,” a senior Railway Ministry official said. The test can measure cognitive abilities and personality traits of individuals. “An advance loco pilot training centre is being set up by Railways to introduce the modern test system for drivers. This will help the drivers to tackle stress and also keeping one’s composure,” he said. Currently, Railways has 90,000 posts of loco pilots of which 22,000 are vacant. The need for the test system has become essential now as the public transporter is actively considering to run trains at higher speed. There will be screening of loco pilots prior to their deployment on high-speed trains. Testing process and calculation of results are totally automatic and the results are generated as soon as the testing is over. The use of computer ensures the highest possible level of objectivity and precision, and enables dimensions to be tested that could not be measured by traditional tests. In addition, the scoring of test results is guaranteed to be fast and accurate.

Published in: on July 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rail Board for reducing duty hours of drivers

Reducing duty hours of mail/express train drivers to six hours (they encounter a signal every minute on an average) to monitoring the crew on his first trip after having availed rest (since most of the signal-jumping cases have occurred after the train drivers have availed headquarter rest) are among the suggestions that came up during a recent meeting on SPAD (signal passed at danger) convened by the Railway Board.

The meeting was attended by chief mechanical engineers of all zonal railways and one mechanical loco inspector from each division and was addressed by Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal and other high officials.

The meeting followed the recent spate of train accidents including the one involving the Hampi Express on May 22 leading to the loss of 25 lives.

Pressure has also been mounted on the Railway Ministry by the All-India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA) for improving safety measures in view of the frequent train accidents.

A communiqué containing the minutes of the meetings and various suggestions made by the participants has been circulated to the General Managers of all the railway divisions in the country.

It was suggested in the meeting that since the loco pilots (train drivers) were found to be above 55 years of age in majority of the cases of jumping of the signal by trains, the retirement age of drivers should be brought down to 55 years.

It was also suggested that links should be made in such a way that there are not more than 2-3 continuous night duties for train drivers.

Efforts should be made so that the running staff (train drivers) was not made to perform more than six hours duty between 10 pm and 6 am, it was suggested.

It was also suggested that retro-reflective board indicating the type of signal with arrow towards the relevant line should be provided at each signal post. In case, there are more than two lines, the signal post of additional line should be of different colour. The name of the station should be written on signal posts of station signals.

The participants also asked for ensuring proper time tabling so that margin for acceleration or deceleration is available depending on the load and gradients and incorporating a concept of loco recovery (making up for lost time) in the working time table.

Suggestions made in the meeting also included subjecting drivers to breathalyzer test before embarking on a journey and counselling their families on the ill-effects of alcoholism. It was also suggested that train drivers should be protected from being arrested in case of accidents as this causes anxiety and increases the stress level of drivers.

“The crew should be counselled not to work under pressure since he has to operate the train under maximum permissible speed now that the concept of booked speed is no longer there. Safety has to be given priority over punctuality,” said the communiqué.

Proposals of Railway Board meeting
Reduce duty hours of mail/express train drivers to six
Monitor crew on first trip after having availed rest
Retirement age of drivers be brought down to 55 years
Not more than 2-3 continuous night duties for drivers
Subject drivers to breathalyzer test before a journey
Drivers shouldn’t be arrested in case of accidents

Vigilance control device fitted in locos

All ‘Alco’ type broad gauge diesel locomotives housed at the diesel loco shed here have now been fitted with vigilance control device (VCD), a safety gadget to keep the loco pilots in a state of alert all through the journey to prevent accidents and enhance rail safety.

The ‘Alco’ type diesel locos which constitute majority among the different variants of engines homed at the Tiruchi shed are used for hauling mail, express and passenger trains as well as goods wagons.

Consequent to instructions from the Railway Board, the exercise of fitting multi-resetting stand alone VCDs in ‘Alco’ type diesel engines commenced last year across Southern Railway.

Railway officials here say that the safety device has been fitted in all the 78 ‘Alco’ type BG diesel engines homed at the Tiruchi shed whose total holding is 144 engines.

Installed right in front of the loco pilot’s seat, the VCD provides cyclic warnings to the loco pilot and applies penalty brakes if the warnings are ignored by him. The VCD automatically resets the alerting cycle when the pre-defined locomotive operations were on or when the reset switch was pressed.

While piloting the engine, the loco pilot is to perform any one of the operations such as pressing the horn button; normal application of the formation brake; increasing or decreasing the level of dynamic brake; changing the notch position and throttle; operation of sanding valves and pressing the VCD reset switch.

Officials say the Light Emitting Diode yellow lamp in the VCD would start blinking after 60 seconds to alert the loco pilot in case he remains idle and fails to perform any of the operations.

The lamp would blink for 17 seconds to alert the loco pilot and further caution him with a buzzer sound for another 17 seconds if the VCD warning was still not acknowledged by the loco pilot.

In case the pre-defined warnings continued to be ignored, the buzzer gets switched off and the safety device applies penalty brakes. The Dead Man Relay (DMR) valve is de-energised to reduce the engine speed to idle and the governor cuts off fuel supply leading to the stoppage of the formation.

The official said the 4,500 horsepower EMD type loco have in-built VCDs. The Tiruchi shed which houses 15 EMD locos at present has been allotted 25 such locos additionally by the Board.