Railway union says loco pilots over-worked, demands shorter duty hours

Loco pilots are gripped with "panic" as they fear being sacked for even minor lapses despite working for unusually long hours, a railway workers union has claimed and demanded that they be given enough rest to reduce stress levels. 

In a letter to the Railway Board on Monday, the National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR) has said that the running staff in the railways was under a lot of stress due to "unlimited working hours" as there was a large number of vacant posts, which despite several requests have not been filled up.   

It said that the Central Zone alone has 229 posts of motormen (suburban loco pilots) vacant, while similar vacancies can be found in Western Railway as well as Kolkata Metro. 

The letter also noted that because of this shortage, the running staff has "unlimited working hours" and as a result of this the fatigue level of motormen has increased tremendously, thereby instances of overshooting signals have taken place. This, it said, resulted in motormen, loco-pilots facing punishments and removals, the letter said. 

"The loco running staff (loco pilot, motormen, assistant loco pilots) are demoralised as they are being removed from service when they overshoot signals even for a short distance."

"It is no exaggeration if we mention that a panicky condition has gripped the running staff, the moment they are called out for duty, the reason being that they develop fear that they get sacked for alleged lapse of even minor nature...," it said.

The letter further demanded that "rest for running staff shall not be less than 24 hours in all cases" and requested the Railway Board "to consider bringing down the duty hours further to reduce stress level". 

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