The delay in posting 70-odd station masters, despite the directive from the Railway Board and the move to abolish posts of platform duty station masters in busy railway stations, have put rail safety in jeopardy.
The workload on the station masters has started reflecting on the safety of the railway network, the latest example being the derailment of a locomotive at Aravalmuzhi near Nagercoil.
The station master, in this case, has been placed under suspension.
The station masters are already protesting the move to abolish the posts of platform duty station masters in Thiruvananthapuram Central, Kollam, Ernakulam Town, Ernakulam Junction, Nagercoil and Kanyakumary.
In Ernakulam Town, the train-passing duty has been entrusted to the cabin station master, thus increasing his workload. In Thiruvananthapuram Central, the outdoor station master, who took care of the shunting of the rakes, has been withdrawn.
The Railways has also not posted station maters in new locations like North Panankudi and in Nagercoil and Kanyakumari, where Route Relay Interlocking cabins have been commissioned.
Railway sources say the move is to bring down the posts of station masters by 100 from 480 in Thiruvananthapuram division, on the argument that cabin station masters could take care of the train-passing duty.
The Station Working Rule has been amended and it has been implemented in the Ernakulam Town. Already, 70 posts of station masters are lying vacant in the division. The divisional authorities are not taking steps to post personnel despite the directive from the Railway Board.
The station masters complain that they are not able to concentrate on operational duties, as they are entrusted with the responsibility of issuing tickets. They are forced to issue tickets through the Unreserved Ticketing System as part of the efforts to shore up revenue and make bookings easier.
The move to change the duty roster has also come in for opposition from the station masters. The proposed new shifts from 7 a.m. to 12 noon, 12 noon to 5 p.m. and from 5.20 p.m. to 10 p.m. will create much inconvenience and will not benefit the Railways, they say. Sources say the operating branch is compelled to violate the General Rules prescribed by the Railway Board.