New Delhi: Long work hours and ‘excess’ number of night duties were responsible for a goods train ramming into another goods train, a railway association has said while defending the loco pilot and his assistant who were dismissed from service.
It was not a wilful but a biological reaction, the All India Loco Running Staff Association said about the June 25 accident about which the two confessed to dozing off on duty.
The train collided with a stationary goods train at Onda in West Bengal’s Bankura district June 25. No one was injured in the accident, which affected train services in the Adra division of South Eastern Railway for over four hours. Eight wagons derailed due to the collision.
The pilot pair fell into micro-sleep (a seconds-long period of sleep) while working. As a result, their train passed the home signal and collided with the stationary train.
During the inquiry, both confessed to falling asleep, saying “aankh lag gayi (had dozed off)”. They were then dismissed from service.
Terming the decision to remove the pair as “knee jerk”, the association said in its letter that loco pilot Swarup Singha had been on 18 trips in the span of a month prior to the accident. Of these, 14 were night duties, 10 trips exceeded 10 hours on duty and eight were of more than 12 hours’ duration.
GS Kumar, the assistant loco pilot, did 22 trips during the same period. Of these, 17 were night shifts, 13 trips exceeded 10 hours of duty and eight were of more than 12 hours, it said.
The association claimed that Kumar, in addition, was forced to work continuously for 19:56 hours — from signing on at 5.24 am on June 6 to signing off at 1:20 am the following day. He was forced to work continuously for 16.50 hours July 22, three days before the incident, they claimed.
“The longer hours of work in most of the trips and the excess number of night duties caused extreme fatigue and accumulated sleep debt, induced the microsleep. Falling into microsleep is not willful and beyond the control of human beings. It is a biological reaction of body.
“Considering these facts and circumstances, we plead, that the orders of removal from service by ADRM/ADRA, may please be reconsidered and render justice,” the association said in its letter.