CHENNAI: Southern Railway has told Chennai division to withdraw a section of trackmen who had been diverted for other duties and direct them to report in their respective gangs immediately. The division seems to have diverted nearly 630 trackmen for other duties, putting train operations at risk. A section of trackmen in Chennai division is not being engaged in their duties for various reasons. While many are allegedly assigned to do household works of higher officials, some of them are doing office work on the recommendation of railway employees unions, sources said.
Taking exception to the delay in completing the maintenance works, zonal railway officials who are facing the heat of ministry over backlogs in track maintenance and poor punctuality of trains, has directed the divisional railway managers to relieve all the trackmen who are assigned to non-core works with immediate effect.“It is noted that 630 track maintainers in Chennai division are diverted from their assigned duty of maintaining tracks to activities not associated with maintenance of tracks,” said Chief Track Engineer in his letter dated June 19, addressed to Chennai divisional railway manager. (A copy of the document is available with Express). He advised that the track maintainers should be withdrawn and directed to report in their respective gangs immediately.
While Southern Railway is reeling under shortage of workers and employees at every level, such a move affects track maintenance resulting in increased risk of train operations, said the official.“Backlogs in routine maintenance activities such as attention of slacks, bridge approaches, boxing of ballast and other works affect the safety,” added the Chief Track Engineer.Keyman and trackman are assigned to inspect the track of about six kilometres a day — each three km distance for up and down lines carrying about 16 kgs weighing tools such as beaters, crowbars and rake ballasts. The trackman had to attend to minor abnormalities in the track and have to initiate protection of tracks in the event of major defects. The worker has to plan the greasing for all track fittings as well.
Sources added that a few trackmen fully engaged in the works of employees unions also will not work. “Only a negligible part of workers are posted for other duties on grounds of poor health issues and other administrative reasons,” explained sources.When contacted, Chennai Divisional Railway Manager Naveen Gulati said a section of trackmen were engaged in the ancillary works that were not directly related to track maintenance. He also denied the charges that trackmen were engaged for household works of railway officials and other office works. “If any worker is found to be engaged on union works, we will take suitable action,” he said.