With hotplate, toilet, less noise, phone-chargers & AC, Wabtec makes locos easier to work in

Mamuni Das New Delhi | Updated on December 12, 2019

A toilet, a hotplate to warm food, a phone-charger, AC, and less noise may not be workplace luxury for most. But they come quite close for loco-pilots of the Indian Railways.

These features in diesel engines rolling out of Wabtec for the Railways make these locos popular among the pilots, according to officials of Wabtec Corporation, which has acquired GE Transportation.

To make the workspace better for pilots, these locomotives have a toilet, air conditioner, hot-plate, phone charger and “extremely low noise levels” in the cabin, according to Surendra Mohan Varma, General Manager-Services Operations, GE Diesel Locomotives Pvt Ltd, a Wabtec firm. Varma was with the Railways earlier.

Concerns regarding such difficult work conditions have been flagged by Indian Railways earlier. Noisy work place and absence of toilet during long running add to the stress of loco pilots, already responsible for thousands of lives, noted a high-power committee headed by a former Railway Board Secretary, DP Tripathi.

The committee had also called for installing air-conditioners in locomotives to make the workspace better.

Training the pilots

Susceptibility to accident due to drowsiness caused by fatigue due to workplace stress, and the severe consequences of making a mistake on duty were the top problem points for loco pilots, the committee had noted. Indian Railways’ locomotive pilots are trained at Wabtec’s maintenance shed at Roza (Shahjahanpur), UP, which till 1997 housed the national transporter’s steam locomotives.

“People trained here include loco-pilots of the Railways with at least five years of driving experience on other diesel engines such as Alco and EMD; chief locomotive inspectors (CLIs travel with loco pilots and, by law, CLIs should be able to operate a train); and pilot trainers,” according to Varma.

These pilots are trained for five days, at the end of which they have to take a test for their ability to drive this locomotive. Almost 90-95 per cent of the Indian Railways’ trained and experienced employees are able to pass the test, in which the passing score is 80 per cent, according to Varma.

Over 2,000 loco-pilots have been trained at the Roza shed, which has a hostel for 60 peopleat a time, according to Wabtec.

“From an original plan of training 8,000 loco-pilots over ten years, GE/Wabtec is now geared to train 16,000 pilots over ten years,” Varma told BusinessLine.

More drivers are required to be trained to operate locomotives 24X7 through the year. More trained pilots will help lead to higher utilisation of these fuel-saving locomotives on the Indian Railways network and will not strain loco pilots, making train operations safer and cost effective.

The writer was in Roza at the invitation of Wabtec

Published on December 13, 2019

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