Even as the Railway Board on Wednesday sanctioned increasing the height of platforms to 920 mm, senior railway officers and Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) officials have raised concerns over the decision. According to them, raising the height to 920 mm can result in drastic reduction in speed of local trains as they approach platforms or lead to unforeseen accidents due to human error during maintenance of railway coaches and tracks.
The sanction has come even as RDSO, the design authority wing of the Indian Railways, is conducting field trials to study if the new platform height is safe.
The Board, while approving the Western Railway’s (WR’s) request to raise platform height, however, imposed certain conditions which include ensuring air springs in bogies function properly, maintaining track level under a pre-determined range and taking care of required wheel dimensions at all times.
“If any shortcoming is found in the platform height by monitoring staff then the speed of trains can be reduced or drivers will be asked to skip platforms until the adequate platform height is met,” said a senior railway officer. Suggestions like drawing a line near the lower edge of the platform for gangmen to determine optimum track levels have been made, said the officer.
The Board’s haste reflects in the fact that during night trials conducted by RDSO and the High Court appointed expert committee for new Siemens rakes with air springs and old rakes with compressible coil springs, the sensors to gauge clearance grazed against the platform edge at Charni Road and Elphinstone stations.
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“While the height of the platform at Charni Road station was 970 mm, there is a high probability that in a running state, the coach may experience a similar incident even at 920 mm if any of the other parameters like track condition, wheel dimensions or spring structure is not optimal,” said a railway officer.
As human intervention is involved during servicing, chances of prescribed dimensions being violated are higher, said an officer. “During monsoon, tracks go further down due to soil sinkage. In case the height of a platform is 920 mm, there will be little room for clearance during monsoon,” added the officer.
Another officer said, “RDSO has put certain conditions before the railways in case they want to raise tracks to 920 mm. However, there are many factors that need to be analysed before this work is done. The RDSO has not yet vetted the 920 mm height. The new height dangerously infringes the safety limits. With the new height, the railways is inviting an tragedy at any moment.”