As an increasing number of train drivers, including motormen, keep themselves busy on the phone while the train is in motion, thereby putting the lives of hundreds of passengers at risk, the Indian Railways have issued a circular making it mandatory for them to keep their phones switched off. A similar ban was imposed by federal regulators in the US following two train collisions in 2008 which were a result of the train drivers using their mobiles.
“Imagine a speeding, crowded train and its driver engrossed in talking on the mobile or busy texting. The risk factors are immense. That is the reason the railways have issued detailed guidelines on the use of mobile phones,” said a senior railway official.
In Mumbai, trains are the city’s lifeline with over seven million people using it daily.
“Instances of accidents have come to light because of train drivers using mobiles during runs. Therefore, a set of revised guidelines are now being issued on mobiles,” says the circular signed by Rakesh Ranjan, director (telecom) at the ministry of railways.
They will have to declare their personal and official mobile numbers and their service operator. The railways are initiating steps to e-monitor and track the calls train drivers make and receive during the train run, the order states.
“While the train run is on, motormen will have to keep their mobiles switched off,” the official said. The official phone can be used only in case of emergencies such as an accident or failure. The reason for using it must be recorded after the journey.
The drivers and guards should use the walkie-talkie/VHF sets provided to them while communicating with each other and the station masters, the order stated.
Train drivers told DNA the intention of the order is good, but the practicalities of using a mobile phone must also be considered.
In the US, there is ban on the use of cellphones, pagers and other electronic devices by rail transit personnel. There are also plans to install cameras in the train operator cab.