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Signalling issue behind Odisha train tragedy, says Railways Minister

A technical glitch has been identified as the cause of Friday's devastating train crash in Odisha's Balasore district that left 288 people dead and over 1,000 injured, according to Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

By Ruchi Upadhyay 
Updated Date

Balasore: The train accident in Odisha has been described as one of the worst accidents in India. 288 people have lost their lives in this accident. At the same time, a large number of people have been injured. All the prominent people including the Railway Minister have reached the spot. It is being told that technical glitch has been identified as the cause of Friday’s devastating train crash in Odisha’s Balasore district

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Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnav says that a high level committee will investigate the matter. Apart from this, the Commissioner of Rail Safety will conduct an independent inquiry. However, a retired railway official has expressed apprehension of technical glitch and issue in signaling behind the accident.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Vaishnaw confirmed that the underlying issue was related to the point machine and electronic interlocking system. The electronic interlocking system, a safety measure designed to prevent conflicting movements between trains, malfunctioned, leading to the fatal incident.

“It is about point machine, electronic interlocking. The change that occurred during electronic interlocking, the accident happened due to that. Whoever did it and how it happened will be found out after proper investigation,” he said.

The three-way crash, which involved the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, and a goods train, occurred near the Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore. The passenger trains were reportedly carrying around 2,500 passengers at the time.

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“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,” Mr Vaishnaw said.

The railway minister denied claims that the accident had anything to do with the anti-collision system “Kavach”. He refuted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s allegations that the accident could have been prevented with the Kavach device.

Mr Vaishnaw reported that restoration efforts are ongoing, with tracks already laid on one of the main lines. The minister expects the affected tracks to be fully operational by Wednesday, with a manpower of over 1,000 people engaged in the restoration process. More than seven Poclain machines, two Accident Relief Trains, and 3-4 railway and road cranes have been deployed.

The railway ministry has compensated the families of approximately 300 accident victims. Special trains are also being run from various cities, including Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Ranchi, and Kolkata to facilitate the return of patients to their homes post-treatment.

The official report into the accident is anticipated to provide further details. The preliminary findings revealed that the signal was given and taken off for the up main line for the Coromandel Express. This train entered the loop line, collided with the goods train, and derailed. Meanwhile, the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express passed through the down main line, leading to the derailment and capsizing of two of its coaches.

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Rescue operations in the aftermath of the accident involved seven National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams, five Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) units, and 24 Fire Services and Emergency units. The Indian Air Force (IAF) also participated in the efforts, deploying Mi-17 helicopters to aid in the evacuation of the dead and injured.

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