A preliminary investigation by a multi-disciplinary team of railway officials has indicated that a signalling failure may have been a cause of Friday’s three-train collision in Odisha’s Balasore district.
The preliminary probe report, a copy of which is available with The Hindu, says that the Coromandel Express was initially given the green signal to enter the Up Main Line, but the signal was then taken off. The train then entered the loop line instead, and collided with a goods train there, triggering the multi-train collision.
More than 250 passengers are feared dead and over 900 injured in the major accident involving three trains: the Yashwantpur-Howrah Express heading north, which was on the Down Main Line; the Shalimar-Dr MGR Chennai Central Coromandel Express heading south, which should have been on the Up Main Line; and the goods train, which was parked on the loop line. Loop lines are constructed in a station area to accommodate more trains and thus ease operations. They are generally about 750 metres in length to accommodate full-length goods trains with multiple engines.
The preliminary investigation team, comprising mostly Senior Section Engineers, found that Train No. 12841 Shalimar-Dr MGR Chennai Central Coromandel Express was given the green signal for passing through the Up Main Line, but it was then taken off.
However, the report does not indicate the reason why the signal was given and taken off, nor does it make it clear whether the signal was showing ‘green’ or ‘red’ at the time when the Coromandel Express crossed it; that would be part of a more detailed investigation. The train did not have a scheduled stoppage at the Bahanaga Bazar station, which it was approaching. The probe confirmed that it entered the loop line instead of passing through the station on the Up Main Line, and so collided with the goods train.
“In the meantime, Train No 12864 (Yashwantpur-Howrah Express) passed through the Down Main Line and two coaches of it derailed and capsized [that is, overturned],” the preliminary investigation report said.
The Coromandel Express passed the Bahanaga Bazar station at 6:52 pm and the accident took place at 6:55 pm. The Yashwantpur-Howrah Express passed the station at 6.55 pm, the report said.
The investigation team found that 21 coaches of the Coromandel Express which entered the Loop Line derailed, and some overturned. The Guard Brake Van and H-1 (First AC) coach were found on the Up Main Line. The locomotive or engine of the train was found mounted on the goods train. The two rearmost coaches of the Yashwantpur-Howrah Express were found derailed and toppled, the report added.
A detailed investigation into the accident will be done by the Commissioner of Railway Safety, which comes under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, a senior railway official said.