Hampi Express driver dozed off because of ‘fatigue’
Bangalore, June 4
The driver of the ill-fated Hampi Express, which collided with a stationary goods train on May 22 at Penukonda station under Bangalore division leading to death of 25 passengers, has admitted that he missed the home signal because his eyes were closed for more than usual duration.
This was disclosed in a press statement issued by the All-India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA). While the driver’s admission confirmed the railway management’s theory that the accident occurred due to “human error”, the AILRSA said the incident was a pointer to the inhuman working condition that the train drivers were being subjected to by the management.
The statement said the loco pilot worked for six continuous nights from May 14 to May 19. On May 20, he got a night’s rest and on May 21 again he was booked to work the Hampi Express, a night train.
Admitting that the driver was assigned work in accordance with HOER (hours of employment regulation) of the Railways, the AILRSA said HOER rules were “inhuman” and needed to be changed immediately. According to the AILRSA, the driver dozed off for “30 to 60 seconds” because of sleep deprivation and mental fatigue. “Often the person is not aware of the sleep that has occurred. A train running at 100 kmph will cover 1.7 km in 60 seconds and if micro sleep occurs after a distant signal at caution, accident will happen,” the statement said.
The AILRSA, a representative organisation of train drivers, expressed anguish that Railway Minister Mukul Roy, who visited the accident spot, talked about using anti-collision devices, but said nothing about changing the HOER rules.
The statement said train drivers would hold a demonstration in front of the office of the commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) on June 7 and apprise him of various demands, including confining night duties to two consecutive nights only, and filling the vacancies of drivers.