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All you want to know about the 8 railway services set to be merged, and the role they play

With all the 8 services having highly specialised roles and varying eligibility criteria, all eyes are on Modi govt to see how it implements the merger.

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government’s sudden decision to merge the eight rail services into a single Indian Railways Management Service (IRMS) as part of a structural reform in the sector has led to a massive outrage among the cadres.

Officers from the three services, which are recruited through the Union Public Service Commission’s civil services exam — the Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS), the Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS) and the Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS) — have taken strong exception to this merger with the technical services.

Those belonging to the technical services, although also recruited by the UPSC, appear for the Indian Engineering Services (IES) Exam.

With all the services having highly specialised roles and varying eligibility criteria, it remains to be seen how the government will actually implement the merger.

As the government explores the ways of going about the unification and tries to placate angry officers, ThePrint looks at these services and the roles they perform in the country’s gigantic sector.

Indian Railway Traffic Service

The Indian Railway Traffic Service is a Group A civil service and functions under the administrative control of the Ministry of Railways. The IRTS is the fifth most coveted Indian civil service and its carde strength is around 900.

The two core functions performed by the IRTS are facilitating coordination among various technical departments and managing revenue realisation for the various services offered by the Indian Railways. While the operations branch of the IRTS is responsible for the first function, the commercial one for the second.

As the IRTS performs some major commercial functions, it is considered the public interface of the Indian Railways.

Also read: Indian Railways deems 2019 safest year in its history, records zero passenger deaths

Indian Railways Accounts Service

The Indian Railways Accounts Service is also a Group A civil service and has a cadre strength of around 800 officers. It was created in the 1920s, after the British Indian government decided to separate railway finances from the general finances of the government of India.

The core functions of this cadre include the maintenance of Indian Railways’ accounts and provide financial advice to the executive. As the IRAS scrutinises every expenditure and investment proposal in the Indian Railways, it is considered an extremely coveted service.

Indian Railways Personnel Service

A Group A civil service, the Indian Railways and Personnel Service has a total cadre strength of 478. It is responsible for managing the human resources and welfare of the employees of Indian Railways.

Given that the Indian Railways has more than 1.5 million employees, the IRPS plays the crucial role of overseeing inter-service relations, employment conditions of employees, among others.

Indian Railway Service of Engineers

One of the oldest services in India, the officers from this service administer the civil engineering organisation of the Railways. They maintain all the existing fixed assets of the railways like tracks, buildings, bridges, roads etc., as well as build new ones. Like all other technical railway services, the officers recruited in the IRES require a degree in engineering.

Indian Railway Service of Signal Engineers

A particularly specialised service, IRSSE manages the signalling and telecommunication infrastructure of the Railways. IRSSE officers perform one of the most crucial functions to ensure safe and smooth running of trains — interlocking, which refers to managing the signal apparatus that prevent conflicting movement of trains, among other things.

Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers

As the name suggests, officers from this service manage the mechanical engineering organisation of the sector. Some of their key functions include handling the production and repair units, motive power availability, crew management, traffic restoration in case of mishaps, etc. 

Officers of the service also handle over several production units like Diesel Locomotive Works, Rail Coach Factory, Wheel and Axle Plant, etc.

Indian Railway Service of Electrical Engineers

IRSEE officers handle the electrical department.

Created in 1947, the electrical department was earlier a part of the mechanical department. However, with greater need for specialisation with time, a separate electrical department was created.

Indian Railway Stores Services

Officers of the IRSS are responsible for procurement of various goods and services, contracts and intelligent warehousing of the Railways, sale of old coaches and wagons, etc. The need for a specialised service for purchases and procurement was felt as Railways in the country expanded exponentially over the years.

Also read: Should Indian Railways be privatised to prevent it from going the Air India way?


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  1. It is better 2 privatise the railway service because all the personnel enjoying several benefits at the cost of travellers like 6 sets of free passes besident resident to iffice passes, break down allowances outstation allowances better than other departments and even Railway Mail Service Center can retain Home
    Defence Foreign affairs and Public finances.

  2. Fine, informative column. 2. Difficult to see how these specialised services, created to fill specific needs and functions of what was the crown jewel of the Raj and can still be a powerful engine for the economy, can be merged. If, over time, the members of different services are not receiving fair treatment in terms of promotions, etc, that could be rationalised through some kind of equivalence. However, A cannot do B’s job. Whatever their formal membership of a common service, a signals engineer alone can do the job he was trained for. 3. It may be unduly harsh to use a phrase like Tughlaqesque, but thoughtless would not be far wrong. A certain gimmickry has come to define governance. Something to create one headline a day, show the present in a better light than the past. Almost six years in, still not a perfect radar lock that can blow an enemy F 16 out of the sky.

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