NEW DELHI: A day after the Utkal Express derailed in Uttar Pradesh killing 24 people and injuring 92, an audio clip has emerged in which a person, allegedly a railway gateman, claims repairs on the track were being done unofficially. The Railways announced a probe into the issue. Meanwhile, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu directed the Board to “fix responsibility” for the incident by the end of the day.
Acting swiftly, the Board on Sunday sent three senior officials, including General Manager for Northern Railways RN Kulshrestha, on leave, and suspended four engineers.
In the 15-minute clip, the “gateman” in Khatauli section tells another person, probably a railway staff, that the track had been cut for repair work, but was not welded as it was time for the Utkal Express to pass by. He adds that the repair was being done unofficially — without any sign or red flag to warn the driver to slow down — and goes on to mention how a similar accident was averted two days earlier as damaged tracks and sleepers were found on another stretch nearby.
Top officials also admitted negligence of railway staff from Delhi Division’s Engineering Department could be behind the derailment as maintenance work was conducted without any caution or restriction on speed.
“Maintenance equipment (welding machines, rails) was found at the accident site. Forensic help will be used to ascertain the cause,” said Mohd Jamshed, Member Traffic, Railways Board, adding that the veracity of the audio clip would be verified and a probe by the Commissioner, Railway Safety, Northern Circle, would begin on Monday. It was not “clear” what kind of work was going on at the site, Jamshed said, “However, any work on tracks has to follow a manual.”
3 top officials sent on leave
Northern Railways General Manager RN Kulshrestha, Delhi Divisional Manager RN Singh & member engin-eer AK Mittal were sent on leave by the Railway Board, which also transferred the Chief Track Engineer
Four engineers suspended
Officials of the Northern Railway engineering dept, including the junior engineer, senior section engineer, asst divisional engineer & senior divi-sional engineer have been suspended