The Railway Board has recommended that the Central Bureau of Investigation should look into the reasons for the train accident that took place in Odisha’s Balasore earlier this week, Union Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Sunday.
The accident, in which three trains collided on Friday evening, left 275 passengers dead and over 900 injured.
Jaya Varma, a member of the Railway Board’s operation and business development department, said that preliminary findings have suggested that a signalling error may have led to the accident, according to ANI.
Varma told reporters that an investigation into the collision is underway and so, nothing concrete can be said. She added that the board is awaiting a detailed report from the Commissioner of Railway Safety.
“I would also like to clarify that only one train, Coromandel Express, met with the accident,” Varma said. “The train collided with a goods train carrying iron ore. The engine of the train along with some of its coaches went over the goods train. The impact of the collision was so strong because the train was at its full speed of 128 kilometres per hour.
She added: “The second issue was that the goods train was carrying iron ore, which is very heavy material. Due to this, the entire impact of the collision fell on the passenger train.”
On June 2, the Coromandel Express, which was travelling from Howrah to Chennai, collided with the goods train that was parked at the loop line near Odisha’s Balasore. The Coromandel Express had initially been given the green signal to enter the Up Main Line, but the signal was later taken off. Following this, the express train entered a loop line.
After this, two coaches of a third train, Bengaluru-Howrah Express, which was headed towards Howrah also fell off the tracks after it came in contact with the derailed coaches of the Coromandel Express.
Earlier in the day, Vaishnaw said that the cause of the train accident and the people responsible for it have been identified, reported ANI.
The minister added that the Commissioner of Railway Safety was at the site on Saturday and more details regarding the accident will be known once the inquiry report comes out. He added that authorities were focussing on restoring the tracks.
“There are four tracks over here, two main lines and two loop lines, the work for one main line has been completed,” Vaishnaw told ANI. “...Our target is to bring the situation to normal by Wednesday morning.”
The minister denied that the unavailability of Kavach, an anti-train collision system, was the reason behind the accident, and said that the incident took place due to changes to the electronic interlocking system.
Kavach sounds an alert when a loco pilot jumps a signal, a leading cause of train collisions. It automatically activates the train braking system if the driver fails to control the train as per the speed restrictions.
Meanwhile, the Congress alleged that the Centre prioritised “high-profile inaugurations and an obsession with speed”, in an apparent reference to the inaugurations of Vande Bharat trains. The trains are indigenously-developed semi high-speed trains, the first of their kind in India.
Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh on Sunday demanded Vaishnaw’s resignation and accused him of engaging in “over the top publicity, theatrics and PR [Public Relations] gimmicks”.
He also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was responsible for creating a facade that the Indian Railways was doing well, even as its crucial and sensitive infrastructure was being neglected.
“We demand that PM Modi should accept part of the responsibility of this mess which his Govt has inflicted on the Indian Railways and our people,” the Congress said. “Despite multiple warnings by the CAG [Comptroller and Auditor General], Parliamentary Standing Committees, and experts - why did the Modi Govt not spend on sprucing up Railway safety?”
It added: “Who is responsible for this deadliest rail tragedy in independent India? Would only lower or mid-level functionaries bear the brunt of accountability or will the executive who takes all the credit for Vande Bharat trains also be held accountable for this brazen disregard for safety standards?”
The Congress also questioned why none of the trains involved in the accident were equipped with the Kavach anti-collision system.