Railway running ‘over-aged’ train coaches, says CAG

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has found some shocking irregularities in the functioning of Indian Railways, especially in connection with its train coaches and its Integrated Coaching Management System (ICMS). The national auditor has found 1,205 functional train coaches to be ‘over-aged’. The coaches have a life of 25-30 years but some of these coaches were as old as 50 years. There are 17 zones in railways and maximum over-aged coaches were in the Central Railway (CR) zone with 373 coaches being ‘over-aged’.

CAG’s latest report on railways was tabled in the parliament on Friday. The report assumes much significance especially because it comes in the backdrop of the recent Indore-Patna derailment accident in which 150 people were killed and 150 others were injured. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had admitted that impact of the accident could have been less if the train had modern coaches instead of old coaches. He had also assured the Parliament he would expedite the process of replacing old coaches with new ones.

CAG has also found several loopholes with railways’ ICMS, especially its statistics regarding condemned coaches. ICMS application was developed by the railways with the objective of monitoring punctuality of mail, express and passenger trains, monitoring status of coaching stock in real time and online.

According to railway rules, life of IRS coaches (wooden body and steel under frame) and steel body coaches are 30 years and 25 years respectively and age of the coach is calculated from the built date of the coach. The national auditor found 2445 coaches had no built year in ICMS database and in 315 coaches, the coach factory turnout date was prior to coach built date.

Pointing out discrepancies, the CAG report observed that in 697 coaches, induction date was shown prior to even their built date. “Out of 71447 coaches of all zonal railways, in 697 coaches the dates of induction into service were shown 1-33 years before the date of built of coaches. Three coaches of North Central Railway had induction dates between the year 2019-2020,” the report stated.

The CAG report also noted that complete data of all the trains was not available in ICMS. It found discrepancies in data of stations, division, yard, base depot, interchange station which indicated inadequate application controls.

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