The Railway Board today detailed the events leading to the catastrophic triple train accident in Odisha’s Balasore on Friday night that killed at least 288 people and left over 1,000 injured. Railways Minister Ahswini Vaishnaw has said the accident was caused due to an issue with the “electronic interlocking system”.
The Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore, where the horrific crash took place, is a four-line station, the railways explained, adding that there are two main lines in the middle and two loop lines on either side. There were goods trains loaded with iron ore on both the loop lines.
The Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express was travelling from Chennai to Howrah and Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express was coming from Howrah. The signal was green on both the main lines. Coromandel Express was going at 128 kmph and the other passenger train was at a speed of 126 kmph. The limit is 130 kmph, hence none of them was overspeeding, Jaya Verma Sinha, Member, Operations & BD, Railway Board, said.
A signalling problem was detected, she said, adding that details will only emerge after further investigation. Ms Sinha said the reaction time was very less at such a high speed. “There was a signalling interference,” she said, adding that it would not be correct to call it a failure. The Railway Board repeatedly echoed the Railways Minister’s assertion that these are just initial findings, and nothing concrete can be said until the formal enquiry is over.
Ms Sinha repeatedly stressed that only one train, the Coromandel Express, and not three, as has been allegedly speculated, suffered an accident.
“For some reason, that train met with an accident, and the engine and coach went over it,” she said. It crashed into a goods train full of iron ore stationed on one of the loop lines, she explained, claiming that the goods train absorbed all the shock of the crash as it was very heavy. Coaches of the Coromandel Express got thrown off into the third track and rammed into a couple of coaches of the train approaching at high speed from Howrah, Ms Sinha said.
“There were Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) coaches, they are very safe,” she said, adding that damage was worse due to the iron ore.
The railways has said that “Kavach”, the indigenously developed automatic train protection system, was not available on the route where the accident occurred on Friday evening.
The system alerts when a loco pilot jumps a signal (Signal Passed at Danger — SPAD), which is among the leading causes of train collisions. The system can alert the loco pilot, take control of the brakes and bring the train to a halt automatically when it notices another train on the same line within a prescribed distance.