Southern Railway was compromising on the safety of rail passengers by not replacing worn out rails but rearranging them in the name of austerity measure, Southern Railway Mazdoor Union general secretary N. Kanniah said.

Talking to reporters here on Friday, Mr. Kanniah said that the practice of rearranging worn out rails lead to improper alignment. This, along with failure to pack the sleepers properly, was tantamount to compromising on rail safety.

The Railway Ministry was giving utmost importance to safety and by allocating huge funds for the same, worn out rails in northern States were being replaced by new ones. “But the Southern Railway, in order to save funds, was putting the life of passengers in danger. This is more pertinent in Madurai Division,” he said. The union had been asking for replacement of rails since 2005.

Besides, the non-filling of 820 vacancies of trackman, who are responsible for maintenance of tracks, in Madurai division alone was also a cause of concern. Mr. Kanniah demanded that the trackman should be provided with helmet fitted with miner's light, mobile phone or walkie talkie for prompt communication during emergencies. Similarly, two trackmen should be allowed to do joint patrolling at night.

Condemning the Southern Railway administration, he said he would take up the issue with the Railway Board.

The Union Government had accepted the union's proposals to modify Direct Tax Code and raise the grade pays of Assistant Loco pilots to Rs. 4,200. However, issues of non-filling of vacancies and giving passes to travel in air-conditioned coaches for select cadre of railwaymen were yet to be fulfilled by the Railway Board. The Union would be forced to go for direct action if these issues were not settled in two months, he said.

Divisional secretary J.M. Rafi was present.

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