Newly-appointed Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani's top priority for his office would be the safety, especially after back-to-back accidents in less than a month. And, to immediately focus on it, he is ready to avoid any frill in the form of bouquets, gifts, lavish celebrations and excessive protocol, among others.
Lohani said in a letter dated August 28, before Tuesday morning's derailment of Nagpur-Mumbai Duronto Express, to employees that Indian Railways had suffered a "serious dent" in the recent past.
"I personally believe in avoiding any frills in the form of bouquets, gifts, lavish celebrations, excessive protocol etc. These divert our attention from our primary responsibilities, hard core work and severely damage the organization also.
Our focus needs to be on deliverance and deliverance alone," he said.
"At this critical juncture when we are facing a serious issue with the image perception of the railways, I expect all my fellow Railway men to pitch in wholeheartedly to set this perception right," Lohani said.
In the letter, he wrote, "We have to always be on our guard to ensure the highest level of safety in train operations and instill a renewed sense of confidence in our esteemed passengers."
He would also focus on the cleanliness of stations, catering and linen on trains.Derailed engine and coaches of the Nagpur-Mumbai Duronto Express block tracks in Maharashtra’s Thane district on Tuesday morning | Photo PTI
"We have to work in a mission mode to bring about quantitative and qualitative improvements in a very short time frame in these areas, while at the same time not losing sight of the fact that the railways need an overall improvement to achieve total customer satisfaction."
Last month, Indian Railways came under the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) scanner for providing sub-standard and unhygienic food to its passengers.
The government auditor in its report said, the food served by the Indian Railways was sub-standard and the stations lacked cleanliness and hygiene. It added that unpurified water from taps was used in preparing beverages; waste bins were not found covered, not emptied regularly, and not washed; food was not covered to protect them from flies, insects and dust; rats and cockroaches were found in trains.
Besides sanitation, the aspect of operating ratio also found a mention in Lohani's letter.
"Our operating ratio needs to be brought down considerably, not only by reducing expenditure but by increasing freight loading and also finding other means of non-conventional revenue generation to achieve a spurt in revenues," he added.
Meanwhile, in the fourth train derailment in the country in 10 days, the engine and nine coaches of the Nagpur-Mumbai Duronto Express derailed between Vasind and Asangaon stations in Maharashtra early on Tuesday following a landslide. There were no reports of any injuries.
On August 19, 14 coaches of the high-speed Kalinga Utkal Express jumped the tracks on August 19, with one of them crashing into a house adjacent to the track near Khatauli in Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar district, claiming 23 lives and injuring over 60 people.
On August 23, about 100 passengers were injured when 10 coaches of the Kaifiyat Express train derailed in UP's Auraiya district after crashing into a dumper which strayed on to the tracks.
On August 25, six coaches of the Andheri-bound local train derailed in Mumbai, injuring six passengers.