Indian Railways will focus on improving the reliability of rails and welds which account for a significant proportion of civil engineering-related accidents on the highly stressed railway network, A.P. Mishra, Member, Engineering, Railway Board said on Friday.

In his key note address at the launch of the two-day technical seminar hosted by the Institution of Permanent Way Engineers (IPWE), Mr. Mishra said while overall there had been a drastic reduction in engineering-related mishaps in the last four years, rail and weld failures still contributed to most instances.

Engineering-related accidents on the system had dropped from 38 in 2009-10 to 27 last year. “While the reduction in accidents in encouraging, what is worrying is the increasing involvement of rail and rail weld failures in these accidents,” Mr. Mishra said.

Rail and weld failures accounted for two-third of the engineering-related mishaps where they were involved only in one-fourth of the cases four years ago, he said.

He urged not only the civil engineering wing but zonal general managers and the Railway Board to “heed the alarm bell” and devise measures to address the situation.

Mr. Mishra frowned upon the practice of lifting a 50-minute line block (for carrying out welding works) under pressure to run trains for meeting passenger demand saying this could weaken rail joints. If a line block cannot be sustained for a duration, his advice was, “Don’t weld, don’t do a job prone to failure.”

Mr. Mishra outlined several measures being taken by the Railways to maintain tracks that were severely stressed by the compulsion to operate more passenger services.

Flash Butt welding

For instance, the Railways had now switched to Flash Butt welding on new lines, doubling and gauge conversion works while studies were progressing on finding a good and right combination of micro-alloys for rails.

Pointing out that one of the solutions to simplify maintenance was to roll out longer rails, he said the Railways had contracted the Bhilai Steel Plant to roll out 4 lakh tonnes of rails of 130-metre length instead of the existing 30-m rails, from 2014.

Singling out corrosion, which led to the fracture of an estimated 20 per cent of the rail lines as a major issue that was difficult to tackle, Mr. Mishra said the Railways was spending about Rs. 350-400 crore every year for changing tracks damaged by corrosion. It occured either due to exposure to coastal atmosphere or contact with toilet waste.

“It will take at least 15 years for green toilets to become universal as only 500 coaches in the stock of 50,000 have this facility,” he said.

Mr. Mishra also held out increased mechanisation of track maintenance as the way ahead.

The two rail grinding machines being used to shape railheads for the last two years in the South Central and South Western zones had significantly helped fatigue reduction and durability of tracks.

The Eastern and South Eastern railway zones will soon have similar machines, he said.

R. Ramanathan, Additional Member-Civil Engineering, Railway Board, A.K. Mital, General Manager, Southern Railway, and M. Satheesh, Principal Chief Engineer, spoke.

  • Civil engineering wing, zonal general managers, Railway Board urged to “heed alarm bell”

  • One of the solutions to simplify maintenance is to roll out longer rails