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No defects detected in accident relief cranes: Railway Ministry

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Feb 23 (UNI) The Railway Ministry has clarified that no defects have been detected in the 140-tonne Accident Relief Cranes (ARCs) which were procured by the ministry in 1995-96 through Limited Tender Process.

Making the clarifications in a letter to Lok Sabha member Md.

Saleem, Minister of State for Railways R. Velu said a limited tender was issued to two proven manufacturers of cranes -- Gottwald of Germany and Cowans Sheldon of England -- for the procurement of 140-tonne ARCs in line with the recommendations of the Commission on Railway Safety after the Firozabad rail accident in 1995.

Mr Velu said all the 12 cranes, orders for which were placed, had since been procured and were in service.

He also referred to a detailed investigation into the entire affair by the CBI, which advised that ''evidence on record did not disclose material for registration of a regular case.'' Mr Velu said, ''The prescribed speed limit of the cranes is 90 kmph and the cranes were cleared for this contractual speed. No defect has been found in the cranes thus procured,'' he said in his February 7 letter.

The minister also said the designs of cranes of the two companies were tested as per contract specifications and were found suitable.

''No deficiencies were noticed either at the time of design approval/inspection or at the time of commissioning,'' he asserted.

With regard to the operating speed, he said the average time taken for a crane to reach an accident site was in no way indicative of its speed potential.''During emergencies, such as accidents, several factors come into play which determine the time taken to reach the accident site.'' Mr Velu said priority was given to Accident Relief Medical Vans and Accident Relief Trains, which are urgently required to provide relief to injured passengers. ''The requirement of heavy cranes comes later for restoration of rail traffic. Hence the time taken by a crane to reach the site depends largely on the condition at the accident site and operational requirements and would not be indicative of the speed potential of the crane.'' In July last year, a leading capital-based Hindi daily had published a serialised news story, giving the impression that rail passenger safety aspects had been compromised in the crane deal.

In April 1997, the Railway Ministry had to file an affidavit in the Delhi High Court, stating that there was nothing wrong with 140 Tonne cranes but these were constrained to operate at lower speed due to the prevailing bad condition of tracks.

On the basis of newspaper reports, 16 MPs had dashed off a letter to Railway Minister Lalu Prasad in August last year, pointing out that 140 T cranes, during the Rajdhani accident at Rafiganj in Bihar on September 9, 2002, reached the accident site from both directions at an average speed of 20 kmph on a track on which the ill-fated train was running at more than 125 kmph.

Raising a question mark on safety aspects of rail passengers, the MPs wanted to know the ''scientific and engineering parameters'' which allowed the trains to run at a speed of 140 kmph though on the same tracks, the 140 T cranes, hauled by the same locomotive, could not even run at a restricted speed.

Demanding that Parliament be taken into confidence, the MPs, cutting across party lines, had pointed out that on March 10, 2000 the then Railway Minister announced in the Rajya Sabha a CBI probe into the crane purchase deal.


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