TAMIL NADU

Needed: regular track maintenance

CHENNAI March 30. Three successive derailments of goods trains on the Chennai-Erode/Jolarpettai (BG section) bring into sharp focus the absence of regular track maintenance by the administration.

While 10 wagons of a goods train derailed near the Katpadi station last Wednesday, disrupting the traffic on the Chennai-Erode and Chennai-Bangalore sections for two days, two empty wagons and an engine of a goods train jumped off the rails near the Erode Junction on Thursday, forcing the administration to divert the long-distance trains on the section. Again, on Friday, one wagon of a goods train derailed at Kavanur near Gudiyatham.

Though no passenger train was involved in the accidents, disruption of traffic caused much hardship to long-distance passengers. It took nearly 48 hours to restore normal traffic on the section.

Railway officials here say the accidents are mostly due to rail fracture, caused by "poor maintenance" of the track.

With the increasing number of passenger and goods trains on the Chennai-Jolarpettai section, track maintenance has become a causality.

Also, special trains are introduced during seasons, making the section more congested. As a result, the administration does not get sufficient `block time' to carry out the maintenance work.

Officials here explain they need at least three hours for maintenance work, which included screening, cleaning and packing ballast with the help of deep screening, ballast cleaning and tie-tamping machines respectively.

When the machines operate on the section, no train is allowed to cross the section.

But, of late, the administration is getting less than an hour a day for maintenance work.

Even manual patrolling of the section has become difficult because of increasing frequency of trains. The absence of periodic maintenance, they allege, has led to rail fracture and minor derailments. If the situation continues, the possibility of a major accident is not ruled out, they say.

`Routine work not hit'

But maintenance officials here insist that their routine work has not been affected. Every month a particular stretch is selected for carrying out repair works. Manual patrolling is done round the clock and there have been instances where track maintenance workers have brought to the notice of officials rail fracture and other deficiencies on the track. No doubt, the administration is not getting enough time. But within the available time, the best possible work is being done, they say.

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