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2.1 The core values of the Indian Railways (IR), which are uniquely inappropriable and sustainable, include safety apart from security, punctuality and reliability. The constant endeavour of the Indian Railways is to become the leader in the nation's transportation sector by providing modern, reliable, safe, customer-led and customer -focussed services to the nation .

The demand for introduction of additional passenger services and other facilities on regional considerations is becoming stronger day-by-day.
Demands for new lines in underdeveloped and economically backward areas, though financially not viable, would continue to be made. The main area of concern is safety. With rising awakening of rights, demand for higher safety in travel is bound to increase in near future. Increased rail-road interface at the level crossings, both manned and unmanned, makes them potential accident spots. The continuous increase in the growth of rail traffic on saturated high density corridors would require lesser dependence on human beings and greater technological support for the train operating staff for ensuring public safety.

The Indian Railways have one of the largest skilled, dedicated and qualified pool of professionals in the country. The rail sector is superior to other modes in terms of safety, environmental and noise pollution, energy consumption and land requirement. Public expects very high standards of safety from the Railways.

2.2 The Indian Railways, at their own initiative, have been periodically getting the system reviewed and scrutinised for safety performance. During the last four decades, four Safety Review Committees have investigated the deficiencies and suggested reforms for improving safety of the system. Railway Safety Review Committee (RSRC 1998), headed by Justice H.R. Khanna, retired Judge of the Supreme Court ,was the last one in the series.

Railway Safety Review Committee (1998), in Part-I of its report recommended, inter-alia, that Railways should formulate a Safety Plan. It says :

"Railways should immediately make out a Comprehensive Corporate Safety Plan which will clearly state:

  • Safety policy/objectives & strategies for achieving them
  • Unambiguously enunciate basic tenets & requirements of safety
  • Prioritize safety-related works and indicate timeframe, investments proposed, and set bench marks for safety achievements" (Para 2.26.4)
On Safety Projects, RSRC recommended inter- alia:

"Decisions on safety projects should cover the items completely in all aspects like funding, time-schedules, actions, accountability etc. over several years" (Para 2.3.1)

2.3 Major issues

The Corporate Safety Plan, as recommended by the Khanna Committee, is proposed to cover :

  • Items to be implemented in order of priority
  • Laying down the timeframe for achieving them
  • Defining different managerial responsibilities
  • Investments required to complete the safety-related works
Expectations on the safety front are becoming more demanding and stringent. Risk levels of earlier times are no longer acceptable by the people . Therefore, safety environment on the Indian Railways cannot be viewed in isolation. It has to be seen as part of not only the IR system, but an interwoven segment of social ethos. Good management, improved work culture, meticulous planning and prudent financial management are necessary to enhance the safety standards on the system.

The goals to be achieved to enhance safety on Indian Railways are:

  • To make railways more reliable and a safer mode for transportation of men and material
  • To stimulate the implementation of modern, proactive and systematic safety measures
  • To bring about both qualitative and quantitative improvements in safety performance
  • To encourage safety research and development
  • To reduce consequential train accidents
2.4 Need for Safety Culture

Safety is an ethos that should pervade all activities of railway operations and maintenance. This ethos has to be instilled and nurtured. It is not an attribute that is likely to be evident merely because rules are reiterated or instructions issued. The concern for safety has to be all pervasive in the functioning of the Indian Railways.

Responsibility for ensuring safety is entirely of different departments and their accountability in this regard cannot be diluted. The safety organisation has essentially to be a co-ordinating service department helping the concerned departments to discharge their safety functions effectively.

Changes in policies pertaining to recruitment, training and redeployment taking into account modern developments and ensuring a code of conduct for safety staff will be the thrust areas in the Corporate Plan period. The safety organisation will also be involved in investment planning for safety-related works. A safety action plan based on defined and acceptable levels will be prepared and its implementation will be the joint responsibility of the executive departments concerned and the safety wing.

Although statistically, the Indian Railways performance has been steadily improving and it has remained one of the safest modes of transport; yet a few serious accidents resulting in loss of life have affected the public perception about railway safety. The Khanna Committee made a number of recommendations relating to technological upgradation, institutional changes and investment planning which need to be acted upon.

The Corporate aim of the Indian Railways is to commit itself to ensuring that all its activities are managed to the highest level of safety which is pragmatic and reasonably practicable to achieve. Though the Railway Board retains the ultimate responsibility for ensuring safety, yet it has to be discharged through zonal railways and divisions. To see that adequate safety management systems are in place, the Railway Board will have to continue to measure how effectively individual zonal railways are managing the affairs as far as safety of travelling public and infrastructure is concerned.

2.5 Areas to be covered

Following areas have been identified, being of particular importance, for which targets are to be laid down :-

  • Passenger safety
  • Road users safety
  • Quantitative reduction in accidents
  • Improving asset reliability
  • Prompt rescue and relief operations
Each Zone and Division is required to identify safety risks, particular to its business and will have to prepare a detailed action programme to ensure that the standards of safety are improved. They will have to dovetail their programmes with the Indian Railways safety objectives. Though the Corporate Safety Plan is made for the next 10 years, most of its achievable targets are divided into two phases . Phase-I will cover the period between 2003-2008 and Phase II will span its safety activities upto the year 2012-2013. This has been, basically, done to have a mid-term assessment with changed circumstances, advancement of technology and assimilation of devices.

The Plan, inter alia, involves administrative decisions, policy directives, induction of safety equipment and acquisition of safety materials. It also aims at reduction of passenger casualties, road users casualties, enhancement of human resource development, revision and modification of rules and efforts to curtail and contain asset failures etc.

2.6 Implementation

The timeframe of many activities cannot be legislated absolutely as it would depend on the quantum of work involved for implementing it over the entire Indian Railways and availability of funds. The project-wise requirement of funds may undergo changes on periodic reviews. Actual fund allocation for each safety project would also depend on the inter-se priority of the project and the total fund availability in a particular year.

The actual implementation of all safety projects would generally be done route-wise with `A' and `B' routes to be taken up first and `E' and `E Spl.' routes lastly; except in case of level crossings, where the works would be taken up on basis of volumes of traffic on the rail-road intersections.

The investment priorities will have to be decided on the following considerations:-

  • Rehabilitation, renewal and replacement of assets
  • Safety works and their prioritization
  • Modernisation and technological upgradation
  • Capacity generation
Most of the arrears of renewals are proposed to be liquidated in a phased manner over a period of 5 years through Special Railway Safety Fund. All fresh arisings of renewals are proposed to be liquidated through the Depreciation Reserve Fund by making adequate provisions. The decision on any safety project will cover the items completely in all respect, like funding, time schedules, and accountability, etc. over the entire duration of the project.

The main principles for operational safety will revolve round efforts to identify and develop appropriate methods and implement the same for reducing the risks associated with human interface in operations. Similarly, the IR would strive to reduce the risks associated with rail-wheel interaction.

2.7 Concerns

Finally, absolute rail safety is a concept that cannot be traded off with any consideration. Risk is an element of everyday life of every transportation mode. To eliminate accidents altogethar would mean enormous investments and possibly unacceptable counter-measures. However, the primary aim of achieving higher standards of safety is to achieve zero-tolerance to all risks. Although the collated safety data indicate the improving safety standards on Indian railways, continuous efforts are to be made to improve it further with optimum utilization of technology, funds and allied resources. The Corporate Safety Plan (2003-2013) is prepared with this broad objective.

The Safety Plan, as the long-term safety blueprint, prepared on the 10-year strategy , is generally based on the Railway Safety Review Committee's recommendations and the major items brought out in the White Paper on Railway safety. The plan envisages key areas like reduction of collisions, derailments, level crossing mishaps, fire in trains, signal passing at danger, trespass and vandalism etc with the objective of achieving reasonably higher standards of safety on Indian railways.

2.8 Safety : Plan Objectives

The Safety Plan will have the following broad objectives:

  • To achieve reduction in rate of accidents per million train kilometers from the present level of 0.44 to 0.17 by the year 2013
  • Implement measures to reduce chances of passenger fatality substantially in consequential train accidents by 2013
  • Focus on development of manpower through major improvements in working environment and training to reduce the accidents attributable to human failure by 40% by 2013
  • Achieve safety culture on all fronts including maintenance depots, worksites, stations, controls etc
  • Progressively achieve an environment of "Fail-proof" from the present "Fail-safe" system of asset failures by upgrading the systems by 2013
  • Prioritization of safety related projects
  • Implementation of accepted recommendations of RSRC at an accelerated pace
The following requirements would need to be met to achieve these objectives:

  • Safety should take priority over other considerations
  • Responsibilities should be clearly assigned.
  • Every railway zone should introduce clear safety management plan.
  • Qualitative changes should be brought about in the human resource development.