Does a local require two motormen? Churchgate mishap opens up old debate

- Published: 16 July 2015

Railway systems the world over might be making technological moves towards running pilotless trains, but as far as Mumbai is concerned, the move might be towards trains with not one but two motormen.

The matter is already out for discussion, with Commissioner of Railway SafetyChetan Bakshi broaching it while laying down conditions before granting nod for the commissioning of two Bombardier rakes on Western Railway. The letter, a copy of which is available with dna, states that 'to ensure safety of 6,000 passengers travelling on a train, in addition to motorman, a co-motorman should be provided'.

The letter contends that the Churchgate-Dahanu Road section has automatic signalling and minimum inter signal distance is 400 metres. This means there are a large number of signals on the section and during peak hours, typical of Mumbai's suburban system, a train might be carrying almost 6000 passengers.

While the CRS letter mentions no time-frame, it does instruct the railways to implement these measures in a time-bound manner. If implemented, officials pointed out, it will almost certainly be for all trains, rather than just Bombardier rakes, and all across the Mumbai suburban network, including the Central Railway.

Motormen on Western Railway have also been demanding an assistant saying that the riding conditions on city's local network has become complex – with more signals and due to different speed restrictions on various stretches.

While the railway board as well as local railway authorities have been opposing this demand for long on the grounds of cost – a motormen earn close to Rs1 lakh a month – the medical twist in the Churchgate train mishap of June 28 might have given the debate an added impetus.

As reported by dna, the motorman of the mishap-hit train was tested for hypoglycemia, a diabetic condition where blood sugar levels fall far below normal, to check if the condition made him lose focus required to bring in the train safely into platform number 3 of Churchgate.

"Thankfully, the accident did not lead to loss of lives or much damage to property. But it could have been far worse though the presence of a motorman might have averted the mishap. It is time to think whether we need to look at costs or whether we need the suburban system to be cent percent safe. If a co-motorman brings up safety levels, then we should go for it," said a motorman who did not wish to be named.