Railway's Smoke Detector System Crawling Through Trials
Even though Rs 2,000 crore was allocated towards safety expenditure in the 2013-14 Railway Budget, basic aids such as a smoke and fire detection system, which are standard equipment across the world, continue to be ignored by officials.
The recent fire accident in which 26 passengers lost their lives while travelling on the Bangalore-Nanded Express shows that our trains are far from safe. While the exact cause of Saturday’s fire is yet to be determined, Anil Kumar Agarwal, Divisional Railway Manager, said he would emphasise the need for smoke detectors to the inquiry committee and senior officials.
According to Railway officials, a smoke and fire detection system, which costs around `35 lakh for installation, has been undergoing pilot tests in just one train for nearly two years.
“They have been testing it on the New Delhi-Bhubaneshwar Rajdhani for around two years now,” Agarwal said. However, the decision to install the system across all trains lies with the Railway’s Research Design and Standards Organization (RDSO) that has been working on the project since 2008.
Smoke detectors are planned for initial installation only on AC compartments that comprise a minority of coaches on most trains. The remaining coaches will have to make do without such systems for the immediate future. Even fire extinguishers are currently placed only in select coaches.
“When the inquiry into the incident begins, we will give our recommendations. Currently, we have two fire extinguishers on each AC coach, four in the pantry and two each in the guard van, brake vans and the engine room. Additionally, there is insulation of wires and fire-resistant sunmica in the floors of AC coaches,” Agarwal explained.
The inquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) into the Bangalore-Nanded Express fire is scheduled to begin from Tuesday.
CRS S K Mittal said he would talk about the issue only after the inquiry was completed.