The 40 posts in 28 railway stations have gone even when 77 stationmaster’s posts lie vacant in the division.

The decision of Thiruvananthapuram railway division authorities to axe 40 posts of assistant stationmaster in the transportation wing has raised fears about rail safety.

The decision is based on a work study report, but Railway sources say stationmasters across the division extending from Sengulam to Vallathol Nagar are under tremendous work pressure and fewer hands means safety will take a backseat.

A “memorandum” signed by the Senior Divisional Operations Manager, the Senior Divisional Finance Manager and the Divisional Personnel Officer, which is available with The Hindu, says the Divisional Railway Manager has approved the decision.

The posts had been kept vacant for a year and they were axed citing a rule that if a post remains unfilled for six months, it can be done away with.

Vacancies

The 40 posts in 28 railway stations have gone even when 77 stationmaster’s posts lie vacant in the division. Sources say stationmasters are given more and more responsibilities even after the introduction of latest technology. Moreover, the number of trains has gone up.

Besides the designated work of passing trains and issuing tickets in small stations, the stationmasters are responsible for the functioning of manned level crossings and intermediate block stop signals and axle count (provision to ensure complete arrival of trains).

As a 25 per cent leave reserve is not maintained as per the Establishment Manual, the stationmasters are denied leave even if ill.

For the past month, many have been forced to do two shifts at a stretch. The supervisory station superintendents have been forced to take up the train-passing duty in Thrissur, Guruvayur, Chalakudy, Thiruvalla and Varkala.

The 439 posts of stationmasters in the division have been allocated considering the importance of the stations and requirement, and an agreement was signed two months ago with representatives of recognised unions by the Divisional Operations Manager.

The work study, which should be done continuously for 24 hours to 48 hours in the railway stations, has not been proper as the Transport Inspector and the Welfare Inspector did not even visit the stations, sources say.

The Divisional Railway Manager reportedly overruled the request of the Divisional Personnel Manager to hold discussions with the recognised unions on the axing of the posts.

Sources allege that the stationmasters are harassed and transferred on flimsy grounds.

The platform stationmaster was suspended for the mayhem at the Central Station here on May 6, though he was not in charge of the shunting operations. The suspension was later revoked.

The divisional authorities are reportedly trying to axe 20 posts of commercial clerk and those of enquiry-cum-reservation clerk, train clerks and train ticket examiners.