Churchgate accident fallout: Motormen should take psychoanalysis tests regularly, say officials

In order to prevent an incident like the Churchgate local crash or any other mishap, officials feel motormen need to be tested for their mental fitness regularly; presently, motormen only undergo periodic physical tests

Two Sundays ago, on a bright morning, a local train rammed into the premises of Churchgate railway station, crossing the buffers that barely managed to contain the train’s momentum.

The motorman of the crashed Churchgate local has given a statement that he blacked out seconds before the incident and couldn’t react in time, as per an official who is preparing a report on the mishap. File pic
The motorman of the crashed Churchgate local has given a statement that he blacked out seconds before the incident and couldn’t react in time, as per an official who is preparing a report on the mishap. File pic

Now, a report is awaited on this one-of-a-kind accident, in which the railway authorities claim that the incident was due to human error. Officials feel motormen should be made to undergo regular mental fitness tests to gauge their ability to handle such a high-responsibility job.

There are nearly a thousand motormen on both Western and Central Railway who drive close to 3,000 train services every day. According to one of the persons who is preparing the report on the Churchgate crash, the motorman involved in the incident, L Tiwari, stated that he “blacked out” seconds before the accident and that he thought he would die and, hence, couldn’t react on time.

In a matter of less than 10 seconds, the speed of this train – 36 kmph while entering the platform – was brought down to 29 kmph at the time of impact. Although it is unclear who applied the brakes, it seems the guard on the other end had applied brakes that led to a reduction in speed.

Mentally fit?
Every motorman or engine driver is required to pass a psychoanalysis test before s/he can be inducted into the workforce and sit in the driver’s chair. The motormen undergo physical tests every three years to check heart problems, blood pressure, any major illnesses or any other mandatory checks.

However, these motormen don’t have to undergo any exam to ascertain their mental fitness after the first psychoanalysis test save for incidents such as last month’s crash or any other mishap. Motormen say that manoeuvering a train in a dense system like Mumbai’s involves immense mental pressure.

They have to ensure that signals are not breached while speeds of trains are always in control, depending on restrictions on stretches as well. To make problems worse, people cross the tracks. mid-day had earlier reported that the railways were introducing yoga sessions to help motormen beat stress.

Sources in the railways claim that gauging mental fitness of motormen and drivers on a regular basis has become vital. Officials said the present system needs to be modified and these mental tests should also be conducted along with the physical exam. “There is no mental check-up that takes place. How do you tell people if they are mentally unwell, unless there is a specific case that comes forth?

If we make it mandatory as part of the routine medical tests along with the physical tests, we can at least know the mental strength of our motormen. Many of the motormen are past the age of 45. They need to undergo these tests,” said a senior railway official, adding that if anyone is found mentally unfit to helm a driver’s job, he can be moved to a department that entails lighter work.

Past incidents have been recorded in which a motorman, at times, jumped a signal, forgot to halt at a station, or stopped the train in such a way that some coaches were not on platform. The report on the Churchgate incident will likely be submitted to the higher authorities this week and one of the suggestions in it could include making these psychological tests mandatory as part of the regular exams.

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