Facing questions over the passenger safety in wake of the Railway triple train accident in Odisha’s Balasore last month in which 293 passengers died, the government on Friday told Parliament that from 2017-18 to 2021-22, an expenditure of Rs 1.08 lakh crore was incurred on Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh (RRSK) or rail safety-related works.
In a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said. “RRSK was created in 2017-18 for execution of assessed safety works with a corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore over. A period of five years. The projects taken up under this fund relate to track renewal, bridges, signalling, rolling stock, training and amenities for safety critical staff. RRSK works are to be funded from Gross Budgetary Support (GBS) and Railways revenues or resources including mobilisation of resources through Extra Budgetary Resources (EBR), as per Ministry of Finance guidelines on RRSK.”
“From 2017-18 till 2021-22 an expenditure of Rs 1.08 lakh crore was incurred on RRSK works.”
He also said that the Railway Safety Fund (RSF) was created in 2001-02 initially to fund works. Relating to Level Crossing and Road Over Bridge and Road Under Bridges.
However, its scope has subsequently been expanded for capital expenditure on other safety works also, the minister said.
During the last five years, the RRSK and the RSF have been operated for expenditure on safety related works.
“Apart from this capital expenditure from Gross Budgetary Support, DRF and DF is made on safety related works. Between FY 2014-15 and FY 2022-23 the total expenditure and BE for FY 2023-24 amounts to Rs 1.78 lakh crore on safety related plan heads. This amount is about 2.5 times the amount spent on safety related plan heads during FY 2004-05 to FY 2013-14 (Rs 70,274 crore),” Vaishnaw highlighted.
He also said that safety critical staff like drivers keep continuous watch on track and signals. This involves standing. Therefore, the quality of rest after duty hours is very important. To have loco pilots or assistant loco pilots well rested before the next duty, amenities like foot massager, yoga mats, fitness facilities, kitchen utensils were recommended for running rooms, in the technical report submitted by Centre for Advance Maintenance Technology (CAMTECH) in 2013, the Minister said.
He also said that laptops and computers were also provided for safety related. Track Management System application besides training of safety manpower.
“Hence, the expenditures were based on set guidelines for procurement of up gradation. Of running room and training staff etc. directly related with safety of train running,” he said.
Commenting on the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in its performance audit report No 22 of 2022 on “Derailment in Indian Railways”, observing that some of the expenditure booked to RRSK was in non-priority items, the Minister said: “Railways has replied to the audit observation in the Action Taken Note, stating that these expenditures are covered by policy letters and technical report of CAMTECH on Running Room Facilities.”
“Accordingly, required expenditure on equipment and gear for safety. Critical staff has been booked to RRSK on some Railways,” he added.
On June 2, the triple train accident involving Chennai-bound Coromandel Express, Howrah-bound. SMVT Superfast Express and a goods train near Bahanaga Bazar railway station in Odisha’s Balasore. Resulted in death of 293 passengers and left over 800 injured.