NEW DELHI: Short circuit caused by tapping of power through open wires, poor maintenance and cooking with open flame are major reasons for fire in trains, said a CAG report, adding that the automatic smoke fire detection device in the running trains were not successfully implemented.
The CAG report on Fire Accidents in Passenger Coaches in Indian Railways tabled in both houses of parliament found that the 12th Five Year Plan stressed upon the need for induction of automatic fire alarm system in coaching trains for early detection of fire. It was, however, observed that the automatic smoke fire detection device in the running trains were not successfully implemented.
Inspection with Railway Officials, it was observed that fire prone activities like cigarette smoking, cooking by vendors at stations, carrying of inflammable articles by unauthorised persons, accumulation of empty cardboard boxes and other waste materials went unchecked aggravating the risk of fire.
The Corporate Safety Plan (CSP) for the period 2003 to 2013 aimed at reduction in fire accidents and consequent fatalities by 80 percent. Indian Railways Vision 2020 prepared in 2009 also aimed at making railway operations free of fire in trains by enhancing the fire worthiness of coaches and by using fire retardant materials in passenger coaches.
The audit observed that during the period 2011-12 to 2013-14, there were 20 fire accidents in passenger coaches and in five accidents alone there were 76 casualties.
“Though the CSP envisaged bringing down the number of fire accidents by 80 percent, the number of accidents increased by 160 percent during 2012-13 and 2013-14 as compared to the number of fire accidents during 2001-02,” said the report.
The Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO), the agency responsible for prescribing specifications for fire retardant materials did not have their own laboratory facilities and the proposal (2006) to create state of the art laboratory is still in nascent stage.
“Section 167 of Indian Railway Act 19891 was not amended prohibiting smoking in trains and railway premises and prescribing stringent punishment for violation,” it said.
Posing a serious threat to safety of passengers, a CAG report found that 96 out of 147 bridges, considered to be prone to brittleness and to be phased-out by end of 2013, are still in existence over five Zonal Railways.
There was shortfall in the scheduled inspection of bridges by various levels of inspection authority to the extent of 32.19 percent which may be a serious threat to safety of passengers as the existence of defects of the bridges, if any, may remain unnoticed, said the CAG.
In 31 out of 102 bridgeworks test checked, Railway Board took on an average 43 months to sanction the bridgeworks after its identification for rehabilitation. Delay in sanctioning and completion of bridgeworks identified for rehabilitation is a threat to human lives and railway assets during operation of train services on these bridges.