Despite efforts at automation to improve safety, the Railways’ need for manpower in many areas of operations is growing.

The Railways is in the process of hiring about 1 lakh staff, through an online exam, for which 2.37 crore applicants have applied. This will be the largest such exam globally.

Asked whether automation will hit the proposed staff intake, an official said it will take a long time for India to reach the kind of automation that exists in railways in the developed countries. The present hiring — a bulk of it for Group D posts — is expected to help reduce train running delays, and increase utilisation of trains and infrastructure, he added.

“Whatever automation we do at the Indian Railways, to achieve a level of automated systems like Europe or Australia will take a long time. The automated actions that we are doing are with to lower accidents,” said the official.

The Railways, which is the single largest employer with over 13 lakh employees, is in the process of hiring assistant locopilots, technicians, gangmen, switchmen, trackmen, cabinmen, welders, helpers and porters.

“There are certain areas where you need manpower. In some new lines, we run trains based on the archaic one train system. This basically means that at one time, only one train can go on the track, and till the train comes back, another train cannot go on it. There may be a gap of three-four hours. We have planned stations, but there is no staff. Manning stations is becoming difficult, as manpower is not available,” said an official.

Lack of station staff is also adding to train delays. The recruitment drive is to fill such posts as there has been no hiring in the last two-three years, said the official.