Western Railway to ban mobiles, install new communication system

After Tuesday's incident when a guard’s cellphone output was broadcast over the public announcement system, WR plans to expedite the process of getting new radio-based communicators for guards and motormen

The Western Railway (WR) is planning to go back to radio communications and is keen to ban use of mobile phones completely. WR plans to introduce radio communicators inside all local trains that would be installed inside the motor cab — the space occupied by motormen and guards.

Also read: Commuters hear 'vulgar sounds' from train guard's address system

The new European radio communication system will be procured at a cost of R6 crore and will be fitted inside all rakes inside the motor cab. Pic for representation
The new European radio communication system will be procured at a cost of Rs 6 crore and will be fitted inside all rakes inside the motor cab. Pic for representation

“We are already working on introducing this new European radio communication system that shall be installed inside local trains. We are expediting its process now so that then onwards both motormen and guards can communicate with the control room with this,” said Shailendra Kumar, Divisional Railway Manager (Mumbai), Western Railway.

This system will be procured at a cost of Rs 6 crore and be fitted in all rakes inside the motor cab. Any communication — to pass on information about any accident, derailment, technical failures or other issues — can be done at the click of a button.

Both motormen and guards will be barred from using mobile phones while inside motor cabs and on duty. Whichever entity is awarded this contract will have to maintain the system for 5 years. Railway officials said that these communicators would operate at high radio frequency for which towers will be set up.

Work on the first such tower would begin at Mahalaxmi. These towers would be stationed at every few kilometres and the dependency on mobile phones would get eliminated. “At stretches, the mobile network, irrespective of any service provider, becomes very weak.

This system would eliminate this as well,” said a WR official. More than a decade back, there was a similar system in place, that got eliminated when mobile phones came into the picture. Presently, the railway administration has banned motormen from using cell phones while on duty, but guards can use them for official use.

“Mobile phones are allowed to be used for official purpose only. Guards can use them to make calls and inform the control room or the authorities in case of an emergency,” said a senior railway official.

Mind that phone
The repercussions of using mobile phones for activities other than calling were seen on October 27 when Guard S Sharma was allegedly watching obscene material on his cell phone. Unknown to him, his cellphone output was being broadcast to the commuters travelling inside the local train, over the public announcement system.

“This was a stray incident but one of the reasons for expediting the introduction of radio communicators. Their use would be for a larger purpose like quicker reporting of accidents and other issues,” said a WR official.

“The guard has been suspended and an inquiry is underway,” said Sharat Chandrayan, chief PRO, WR. On Wednesday, senior railway officials counselled other guards on the usage of cell phones.

On October 27, Guard S Sharma was in a Borivli-Churchgate fast train. Sources said that after the train reached Andheri, there was an announcement about it being a fast train after that. From that point on, people in this train got uncomfortable as they started hearing vulgar language and obscene sounds over the public announcement system.

Amidst a few amused and many furious faces of commuters, one traveller lodged a complaint with the Grant Road station master’s office. “He has also recorded the voices that were being beamed over the public announcement system. This shall be used during the course of inquiry,” said another WR official.

Soon, the complaint was sent to the control room at Churchgate where Sharma was confronted. But apparently nothing was found in his mobile phone, which has been seized.

Guard speak
Speaking to mid-day, Guard S Sharma (50) said: “Presently an inquiry is going on. I did not do anything. The public announcement system was switched on at Dadar station when a few people came asking whether it was a slow or fast train and in that moment I forgot to switch it off.

A young boy standing right next to our cabin was watching a vulgar movie on high volume. As the train was passing, its voice was beaming right on to the public announcement system which the people heard.”

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