'Electric point machine' cause of Odisha train crash, says railway minister

The root cause of the three-train crash in Odisha's Balasore and the people responsible have been identified, railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Sunday

NDRF team at the site of the 3-way train accident in Odisha's Balasore (Photo: Getty Images)
NDRF team at the site of the 3-way train accident in Odisha's Balasore (Photo: Getty Images)


The root cause of the three-train crash in Odisha's Balasore district and the people responsible for it have been identified, Union railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Sunday, June 4.

He also said the Railways is aiming to restore normal services on the affected tracks by Wednesday.

Talking to reporters at the accident site, the railway minister said the issue is of an electric point machine, a vital device for railway signalling, and electronic interlocking.

The change that was made to electronic interlocking which led to the accident has been identified, Vaishnaw said while denying that the incident had anything to do with the anti-collision system Kavach.

The crash involving the Bengaluru–Howrah superfast express and the Shalimar–Chennai Central Coromandel Express, which were carrying around 2,500 passengers between them, and a goods train occurred around 7 pm on Friday near the Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore.

At least 288 people died and over 1,100 were injured in the accident.

"The enquiry into the accident has been completed and as soon as the commissioner of railway safety (CRS) provides his report all the details will be known.

"The root cause of the horrifying incident has been identified... I do not want to go into details. Let the report come out. I will just say that the root cause and the people responsible have been identified," the railway minister said.

Speaking to PTI, he also said the kin of around 300 accident victims have been provided compensation. "We met the patients and doctors at Soro Hospital. Special trains are being run from Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Ranchi, Kolkata and other places so that patients can reach homes after treatment."

Vaishnaw said restoration work was being carried out on a war footing and tracks have already been laid on one of the main lines.

"We have mobilised all resources. I also want to say that Kavach has nothing to do with the accident. This accident occurred due to changes to the electronic interlocking system. The remarks of (West Bengal chief minister) Mamata Banerjee [are] not true," Vaishnaw said.

"The setting of the point machine was changed. How and why it was done will be revealed in the probe report," he told PTI.

An electric point machine is a vital device in railway signalling for quick operation and locking of point switches and plays an important role in the safe running of trains. Failure of these machines severely affects train movement, and deficiencies at the time of installation can result in unsafe conditions.

The preliminary probe report, a copy of which is with PTI, said the signal was given and taken off for the main up line for train number 12841 (Coromandel Express). The train entered the loop line, dashed into the goods train and derailed. In the meantime, train number 12864 (Bengaluru–Howrah Superfast Express) passed through the main down line and two of its coaches derailed and capsized, the report said.

Earlier in the day, the railway tracks were cleared of wrecked coaches.

The work on repairing tracks and overhead electric lines is in progress. Over 1,000 workers are working round-the-clock for early restoration of the affected tracks now, to get it done for the resumption of rail traffic by Wednesday, June 7. Deployed at the site are seven Poclain machines (excavators), two accident relief trains, and railway and road cranes.

In a statement, the South Eastern Railway said, "All 21 coaches which capsized and derailed have been grounded. Now the site is being cleared of bogie/wheels sets and other components. Three goods wagons and locomotive grounding work is going on. Track linking and overhead electric work is going on in parallel."

The Railways are also operating special trains for transporting survivors and relatives of the deceased.

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