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Security inspection or eyewash?

CRS winds up Metro infrastructure inspection in a jiffy, raising questions whether the nodal agency was under pressure to give project the go ahead at the earliest

The Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) yesterday began the much-awaited inspection of Reach I of the Metro, but he seemed to be in a great hurry to wrap up the process. Working at breakneck speed, apparently under pressure from the higher-ups to complete the process faster and give clearance to the BMRCL to start operations, he inspected all the six stations during the daylong drive. Usually, CRS inspections -- which involve scrutinizing the track structure, signaling and telecommunication system -- take some time, as the team has to check every nitty-gritty of the construction and point out loopholes in the safety standards.


Eye on the track: The Commissioner for Railway Safety team inspects
the Metro station at MG Road yesterday. Pic/Ramesh H S


Take the case of the Delhi Metro. In 2001, its safety inspection lasted for two entire days. The CRS found certain irregularities in the safety standards. "Certification was given only when Delhi Metro complied by the rules and lived up to the standards," said Sandhya, PRO, Delhi Metro.

According to experts, by the kind of hurry the CRS has shown in his inspection, there is a fair chance of him overlooking loopholes in safety standards. "The job of the CRS is to closely inspect each and every aspect of the rail service, which is why the CRS is the last safety check barrier that any Metro has to pass. With the CRS hurrying up the entire process, it seems that pressure from higer-ups has affected his inspection," said M N Sreehari, Advisor to government on infrastructure, transport and traffic.

Pressure Tactics
While the city eagerly waits for the launch of the Metro, several postponements in its inauguration date, particularly after Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda assumed power, has apparently disappointed the general public. Asked whether he was being pressurised by the political class to wind up the inspection fast, CRS D K Singh declined to comment.

After his daylong drill, a visibly exhausted Singh said, "We are working in cooperation with the BMRCL and there is no pressure. It is our job and we will finish it soon. We have asked the BMRCL to improve its operation and maitanance, but there is no flaw with the construction."

Earlier, the CM had announced the launch of Bangalore Metro on September 15 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, taking even the BMRCL authorities by surprise. He later retracted and said the official inauguration date will be September 25, apparently without checking with the PMO whether the PM was available to grace the event. According to highly-placed sources in the PMO, the PM will be available for inauguration only on September 17 or 18.

Safety First
Sreehari said, "Just by getting the certification, the Metro cannot guarantee safety of the passengers. This can be done only by making sure that all aspects of the project are scrutinized properly, which does not seem to have happened in this hurried inspection."

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