Tug-of-war at Rail Bhavan over Delhi Metro

NEW DELHI NOV. 10. Donning colourful fibre-glass helmets and holding walkie-talkies, workers present a busy look on any of the construction sites of the Delhi Metro system.

The disciplined work force has ushered in a quiet revolution of sorts by their efficient and swift work culture, endearing themselves to the people.

Underneath this exterior, however, a battle is raging over the crucial aspect of public safety regarding the new metro rolling stock.

A tug-of-war is going on in the corridors of Rail Bhavan where many questions are being asked. Will the Delhi Metro system comply with the strict safety standards followed by similar systems worldwide?

At the heart of the controversy is the October 21, 2002, decision of the Chairman, Railway Board (CRB) to permit the Chief Electrical Engineer (CEE) to certify oscillation trials of the coaches for the purpose of mechanical aspects also.

The CRB's letter to the Commissioner of Railway Safety, Northern Circle, has made the mechanical engineers see red and their association reminded the CRB on October 22 that safety norms were being undermined in testing of rolling stock.

Requesting the CRB to amend his decision, the Association of Mechanical Engineers said that even while carrying out the testing of the DMRC-owned stock, the accountability of the Railway Board to ensure public safety remained unmitigated and no slacker standards could be applied.

As things stand now, it is the Railway Ministry's insistence that the Delhi Metro appoint a full-fledged Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) to look after mechanical maintenance and the safety of rolling stock that has been rubbing the DMRC the wrong way which has on its rolls a number of general consultants and experts and has recently imported the coaches from a South Korean company.

On October 11, 2002, the Executive Director, Mechanical Engineering (Coaching), Railway Board directed the DMRC to appoint a competent, qualified and experienced CME to enable commencement of oscillation trials.

Sources in the Railway Ministry said it was not rivalry between mechanical engineers and others such as electrical and civil engineers but only a reiteration that mechanical aspects of the safety needed to be looked after by competent mechanical engineers.

Recently, the Railway Board's Member (Mechanical) had suggested an arrangement authorising a senior mechanical engineer on deputation from the RITES to the DMRC to certify in place of the CME on the joint safety certificate to expedite oscillation trials. However, Member (Mechanical) wondered if better safety, reliability and maintenance system was sought to be achieved by permitting the Delhi Metro to start a new railway without a CME.

``Even today, the DMRC is depending heavily on the support of mechanical engineers of railway at the Railway Board, the RDSO and the RITES. The logic for not employing mechanical engineers on their system at the cost of safety is, therefore, not understandable,'' the Member (Mechanical) said in an internal note.

The Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety (CCRS) had made it clear on June 12, 2002, in his letter to the Secretary (Delhi Metro), Railway Board, that the joint safety certificate for the DMRC coaches should be signed by the Chief Mechanical Engineer, Chief Engineer, Chief Electrical Engineer, Chief Signal and Telecom Engineer and Chief Operating Manager of the railway concerned in accordance with the Railways Rules, 2000.

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