The Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) and railway electrification works will no longer require clearance from the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS), according to a latest decision of the government.
Curbing the scope of powers of CRS significantly, the government has also taken foot-over bridges, minor bridges and manned level crossings off the list of works that would require CRS approval for construction, rebuilding, strengthening, etc.
The logic behind the move — in the making for the last few years now — is that the internal, established apparatus within Railways is good enough to assess any safety implications these works might have, and as such Railways is competent to take a call on these matters without involving CRS, which is under the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
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The move has been made to let minimum outside interference in maintenance and upgrade of the railway system without compromising on safety. Sources said this will result in faster commissioning of electrification, DFC lines and other items exempted from CRS purview.
“Central Government hereby exempt from the application of the provision of Section 21, 22 and 23 of the said (Railway) Act…,” the Gazette Notification published on May 24 says. The sections relate to applicability of CRS green light on railway operations.
It was deliberated within Railways that DFC, being a freight-only system, does not require intervention of CRS, whose main mandate is related to safety of human lives.
In terms of electrification, even as the Railways attempts complete electrification of its broad gauge routes by December 2023, the norm has been to get CRS inspection and approval before commissioning of the lines. Officials said even in that, CRS usually endorses what the Principal Chief Electrical Engineer (PCEE), the top electrical officer in a zonal railway, certifies.
The argument in Railways is that going by the Electricity Act, PCEE enjoys competency of certifying a newly electrified line to be opened without the extra seal of approval from CRS.
Officials said that for everyday maintenance and upgrade works related to manned level crossings and bridges, it was difficult to adhere to another layer of bureaucratic process in the form of CRS, which often added to the overall time-line.
The move had been under deliberation for a few years now, weighing the pros and cons with regards to safety.