Railway Board steps in to deal with shortage, poor quality of walkie-talkies

Prior to the Board's order, written complaints about "pathetic condition" of VHF sets were raised by several safety category employees

Representative image (file photo)
Representative image (file photo)


The Railway Board has issued instructions to all its zones and divisions to overcome shortages and ensure proper maintenance of VHF (very high frequency) handsets, also called walkie-talkies. It is a crucial communication medium among drivers, guards, station masters and other officers engaged in the safe operation of trains.

Prior to the Board's instructions, various written complaints about the "pathetic condition" of VHF sets and their shortage were raised by safety category employees to their respective department heads in various zones and divisions.

In April 2022, the Railway Board had advised its zones to procure VHF sets for crew along with other measures to overcome the shortage of quality walkie-talkie sets. "However, it has been observed that some Railways are facing shortage of VHF sets for crew," the Board said in its letter dated 26 June.

It said VHF communication is very crucial for train operation and their non-availability is a serious safety concern. The board also issued various instructions to ensure availability of quality VHF sets.

For proper maintenance of VHF sets, the board said, "A JPO (Joint Procedure Order) may be signed between S&T (Signal & Telecommunication) and Electrical and Operating departments at SAG (Senior Administrative Grade) level for issue of VHF sets to crew, maintenance/repair of VHF sets, safe keeping of VHF sets, dealing with defective VHF sets, batteries, spare batteries and chargers."

According to the board, 5-watt VHF sets will be treated as lobby equipment across all zonal railways. "Crew lobby in-charge will hand over only fully charged 5-watt VHF sets and one fully charged spare battery to the crew members," the board said. "Useful life of battery is one year for the VHF sets used for crew as per the Board's letter dated 19.08.2010."

Meanwhile, many guards and train drivers across various railway zones continue to complain regarding the poor working condition of VHF sets.

"Maintenance of VHF sets is very poor and pathetic due to which operating staff who use these equipment face problems. Often, they conk out during train operations causing huge hardships to drivers and guards," said Ashok Sharma, assistant general-secretary, National Federation of Indian Railwaymen.

"If you see the 'Abnormality Register' in which drivers write their grievances after completing their train duty, you will find that a lot of complaints are with regard to the poor working condition of VHF sets," a loco inspector said.

The Jhansi branch of the All India Guards Council, a body of train guards, too highlighted the poor working of VHF sets in its division, saying, "The condition of walkie-talkie sets are pathetic as their batteries get consumed in a single trip."

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