In what could be good news for lakhs of Mumbaikars who get stopped on the tracks, quite literally, every time there is a flash strike by motormen — the railways on Monday made some major changes in rules governing the employment of train drivers and suburban motormen. While the changes will give all categories of train drivers better chances of promotions, what has delighted the city's railway authorities is the fact that these rule changes will make it tougher for motormen to go on strike at will.
As per the new rules, in Mumbai, the training given to drivers to graduate from Good Train drivers to Passenger train drivers will now be modified to include the training curriculum of motormen as well. According to officials, this will integrate all the driver categories in such a way that authorities can get passenger train drivers to run suburban locals and the other way round, under normal as well as emergency circumstances.
Currently, the system is such that except motormen, no other driver category has the requisite skills to run local trains. In the past, this has led to the motormen unions resorting to flash strikes at will, mostly in support of colleagues who have been punished for severe safety violations while driving trains. All these strikes have been successful because the authorities could not get any replacement for motormen from other driving categories. According to officials, the rule change will also give categories like drivers who pilot trains inside workshops and carsheds a chance to become motormen after appearing for relevant exams.
"So motormen unions knew that they could hold the city to ransom at will, if they so desire. In the years to come, that will not be the case as Western Railways (WR) will have a system wherein several driving categories would be having the knowledge of working local trains and who could be called in as replacement," said a senior WR official. Unlike all other railway zones in the country, WR, since the early 1980s, directly recruits its motormen who form a separate cadre and retire as motormen. The rule to recruit motormen directly on WR got changed in October 2011, but Monday's order has just made things clearer, as per officials.
One of the changes is that motormen will be given training to run mail and express trains so that in future they could get promoted to run long-distance trains."This rule is followed in Central Railway as well as other railway zones. It ensures discipline, and, in turn less strikes, because the focus for a driver is to get promoted to the highest levels of train driving, that is becoming a Rajdhani driver," said a senior railway official.