Ill-maintained locos risk lives

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Chennai: More than a dozen diesel engines that ought to have returned to the Tondiarpet Loco Shed for annual overhauling months ago, are pulling long-distance mail and express trains with poorly maintained brakes and traction control systems, thus risking the lives of thousands of passengers every day.
Annual overhauling has not been undertaken for the 14 diesel engines attached to Tondiarpet shed alone, senior Southern Railway sources told Deccan Chronicle, attributing frequent engine breakdowns to poor maintenance.
From acute staff shortage to inadequate spare parts supply, the shed or its engine maintenance activity is plagued by several problems.
The shed daily accounts for around 20 diesel engines starting from Chennai Central and Egmore junctions besides another 40 old diesel engines used for shunting and piloting.
Only five of the 20 diesel engines for express and mail trains are less than 20 years old and the department sends worn out engines from Ernakulam, Erode and Trichy to Tondiarpet, sources pointed out, explaining how the mechanics were being forced to compromise even on engine brake maintenance owing to severe spare parts shortage.
“We use the old metal brake blocks instead of prescribed rubberized blocks. Metal blocks are not only less efficient but increase depreciation (of wheels),” sources explained.
The shed has no spare auxiliary motors, sources revealed adding that the traction motors used in the engines were inefficient.
“Owing to shortage of spares, we remove spares from engines that come for AoH and put them on engines awaiting clearance,” sources said.
The shed has only 328 staff against the 411 sanctioned decades back for maintaining pilot engines alone.
Three electrical mechanics are required for attending one engine, but the shed is 62 short of the sanctioned 120.
“The annual overhauling of one engine takes at least a month. Given the skeletal strength, how can we maintain as many as 62 engines in a year?” wondered sources in the shed.

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