Modem methods of track maintenance employ track machines and other modem track equipment for the maintenance of tracks as opposed to the traditional methods of manual packing. The methods used generally are the following.
(a) Mechanized maintenance of track with the help of track machines
(b) Measured shovel packing (MSP)
(c) Directed track maintenance (DTM), which is maintenance based on need, particularly if DTM is done by MSP.
In these methods, the emphasis is not only on modern maintenance techniques but also on the identification and rectification of defects, the implementation of proper quality control in a systematic manner, and the use of proper tools and equipment.
For over a century, tracks on Indian Railways have been maintained by the method of ‘beater packing’ using manual labour and the performance has been excellent. It is now being felt that this method of manual maintenance, which has stood the test of time, may require a revision in view of all the recent technological and social advancements. The European Railways, which was also in a similar position a few decades ago, has already switched over to modern methods of maintenance to suit the requirements of the modern track. Such a system of maintenance of track has given the men working on the permanent way a better social status, as it requires lesser physical strength and higher mechanical skill on their part. The system has also enabled them to maintain the modern track more economically and effectively in order to cater to the requirements of higher speeds and heavier axle loads. There is no doubt that the mechanized maintenance of track has become a technical necessity for the modern track structure with its long welded rails and concrete sleepers. In spite of changes in our socio-technical background and the increasing emphasis on the modernization of the track to allow for higher speeds the following question arises: Is there really a need for the complete mechanization of the process of track maintenance, particularly when India has such a large labour force and is faced with a serious problem of unemployment?