Anil Kakodkar to head railway safety panel



New Delhi: Aiming for "zero tolerance" safety standards akin to nuclear power plants and space technology institutions, the Indian Railways Friday set up a high-level committee, headed by former Atomic Energy Commission chief Anil Kakodkar, to review "long-term safety needs" of the national transporter.

The panel, including Delhi Metro's chairman E Sreedharan as member, will submit its initial report in three months and focus on safety audit and human resource development besides technical aspects of safety.

Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi said: "We want to have zero tolerance for railway safety like the protocols followed in nuclear power plants and space technology institutions."

Keeping this in mind, N Vedachalam of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, Sanjay Dhande, director of IIT-Kanpur, and GP Srivastava of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre have also been made members of the high-level panel, he said.

Trivedi said the panel will provide independent expert input on improving safety of running trains.

Sources said the Kalka Mail accident in Uttar Pradesh in July this year, involving 70 casualties, and the recent collision in Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu in which 10 people were killed, necessitated a "holistic assessment of safety" of the Indian Railways.

Though the railway minister aimed at "zero tolerance to safety", sources said not much attention was paid to the Railway Safety Review Committee set up in 1998 under Justice HR Khanna, a retired Supreme Court judge.

Trivedi said the ministry will try to accommodate the recommendations of the Kakodkar panel despite "financial constraints".

"The substantial growth in the passenger and freight traffic handled by the system does put considerable strain on the infrastructure," said Trivedi.

He said in the previous decade, the total number of average passenger and freight trains run daily on the Indian Railways' system has increased by 30 percent from around 14,000 to almost 19,000, including over 12,000 passenger trains.

"There is a lot of demand from the members of parliament for new trains and creating more halts," said Trivedi.

Responding to a query that around two lakh posts, some of them related to safety aspects, are vacant in the railways, putting pressure on safety management, the minister said, "railway recruitment processes are long".

Thanking Sreedharan for coming on board, Trivedi said: "If the Delhi Metro can run efficiently, why can't the ralways?"

IANS