Odisha train crash: Cause identified, tracks to be ready for normal services by Wednesday, says railway minister

Balasore: Congress alleges railway safety had been compromised in “PR campaign” of prime minister and the railway minister

BY | Sunday, 4 June, 2023
Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in Balasore, Odisha

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The root cause of the three-train crash in Odisha’s Balasore district has been identified and the affected tracks will be restored for normal services by Wednesday, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Sunday.

He said the issue is of point machine and electronic interlocking.

The change that was done 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 Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express and Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, which were carrying around 2,500 passengers, and a goods train occurred around 7 pm on Friday near the Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore. At least 288 people were dead and over 1,100 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.

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.”

Speaking to reporters at the accident site, 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 is not true,” Vaishnaw said.

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

Read more: Odisha train crash: Indian Railways initiate high-level probe, prelim inquiry reports states signal “given and taken off”

Two days after the crash, most railway tracks have been cleared of wrecked railway coaches overnight by a team of bulldozers and cranes so that railway services on the main trunk line connecting eastern and southern India can be restored, railway officials said on Sunday.

Work on repairing tracks and overhead electric cables which had snapped is also going on, said officials.

Union Ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Dharmendra Pradhan who have camped here visited the railway accident site in the early hours of the morning.

“Restoration work is going on at a fast pace … single line track work, signalling system has almost been completed, overhead electricity work of one track is going on, it will be completed very soon,” said Vaishnaw.

Pradhan added that “rescue work is over we are working with the local administration to send people affected back home.”

He also said that the big challenge is to restore tracks so that the railway link between two important wings of the country can start functioning.

“By Tuesday we should be able to do it,” the minister said.

“We have teams working round the clock. Restoring at least two lines -up and down – is absolutely essential as quickly as possible,” a senior railway official at the site said.

“Restoration work on tracks is on. We are also working on overhead cables and masts which were uprooted soon the down line will be restored and then the up line,” the official said.

A thorough search is being conducted in the passenger coaches which have been removed to check for bodies which may still be in them trapped in crumbled steel parts of the coach.

Railway officials said that all 21 coaches which capsized due to the derailment of trains at Bahanaga Bazar station have been grounded. Now the site is being cleared, he said.

“Further 3 wagons and the locomotive upper part will be grounded,” the official said, adding that a special train will start from Bhadrak at 1 pm on Sunday and will run up to Chennai in the path of 12841 Coromandel Express.

It will have stoppages at Cuttack, Bhubaneswar and all other stoppages of 12841 Coromandel Express. Stranded passengers of the train accident and their relatives can avail of the train service, he said.

Sources said that the number of deaths in the triple train crash on Friday has also increased from 288 to 295 but this could not be confirmed as yet.

Read more: Odisha train accident: PM Modi inspects site; MoCA asks airlines to check any abnormal airfare surge

Meanwhile, the Congress on Sunday demanded the resignation of the Railway Minister alleging that his “PR gimmicks” overshadowed the “serious deficiencies, criminal negligence and complete disregard for safety and security” of Indian Railways.

The Opposition party also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should accept part of the responsibility of the “mess” which his government has inflicted on the Indian Railways and the people.

Addressing a press conference, Congress MP Shaktisinh Gohil and AICC’s publicity and media department head Pawan Khera alleged that the Odisha rail tragedy was a “man-made devastation caused by “utter negligence, serious lapses in the system, incompetence, and a narcissistic sense of know-it-all attitude of the Modi government”.

Prime Minister Modi, who has announced that the guilty would be punished, must first start with his Railway Minister, Khera said.

“Unequivocally and unambiguously we demand the resignation of the Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. Nothing short of it,” he said.

Earlier, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh alleged that railway safety had been compromised in the “PR campaign” of the prime minister and the railway minister.

“Recall that Lal Bahadur Shastri resigned in the wake of the Nov 1956 Ariyalur train disaster & Nitish Kumar did so following the ghastly Aug 1999 Gaisal train tragedy,” he said in a tweet.

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