BENGALURU: A fracture in the tracks caused the Intercity Express to derail near Anekal on February 13, a preliminary inquiry has found. The accident killed nine and injured 20 passengers travelling on the Bangalore-Ernakulam train. The statutory inquiry report by Satish Kumar Mittal, Commissioner of Railway Safety, was released on Tuesday.
A two-day inquiry was held in Bengaluru on February 17 and 18, in which one public witness and 30 railway witnesses were examined. The final report will be out in six months.
In railway parlance, the derailment of Train No 12677 was caused by “rail failure at km169/900-800,” and is classified under “failure of equipment-rail failure.”
The rails are of 1995-96 vintage. A fracture came to light the previous day (February 12) when the loco-pilot of a light engine experienced a jerk. He understood there was a crack and told the station master at Anekal Road at 9.55 am.
“It was a vertical rail fracture,” the report says, adding that the maintenance staff then attended to it.
The fracture was repaired with a one-metre fish plate and four bolts, two on either side.
A speed restriction of 20 kmph (instead of the permissible 65) was imposed on February 12 at 10.15 am, and removed at 2 pm the same day. On February 13, a track maintenance staffer passed the tracks at 7 am and did not notice any abnormality. He found no boulder, as initially suggested by some reports, at the site.
The ill-fated train left Bangalore City at 6.23 am, eight minutes late. After stopping at Carmelaram for a minute at 6.47 am, it had an uneventful run up to Anekal Road station.
And then, while passing a four-degree left curved track, the loco pilot felt a jerk. He looked back and simultaneously noticed brake power dropping and the loco vibrating, the report said.
The accident occurred at 7.37 am and the train speed was 64 kmph. The underframe of D8 coach went under the trailing portion of D9 coach and the body of D9 pierced through D8.
Loco-pilot Relieved But Sad
Loco-pilot A T Fernandes, who was steering the engine when the accident took place, described the investigation as ‘good’.
“I will not say I am happy... I feel terrible when I think of the lives lost that day,” he told Express.
A top track maintenance official said action would be taken against any employee found guilty of negligence in repairing tracks, but only after the final report was out. Asked if a speed restriction and better handling of the fracture could have averted the disaster, Railway Safety Commissioner Mittal refused to take a stand.
“We will analyse the rail bits, examine more documents and witnesses, and arrive at a conclusion,” he said.
Divisional Railway Manager Sanjiv Agarwal said, “We are already implementing all the recommendations in the report.”
He claimed the fracture was 200 metres away from the accident spot, and the replaced fishplate had been intact.
What the Report Says
- Boulders not responsible for accident.
- Loco pilot and assistant had rested 21.5 hours before signing up for duty.
- Loco pilots tested negative for alcohol.
- Brake power was 100 per cent, certified three days before accident.
- 108 ambulances reached spot at 8.30 am. The railway Accident Relief Medical Van from Erode ordered at 7.44 am reached spot at 9.08 am; van from Erode ordered at 7.50 am began its trip 90 minutes later and reached only at 3.40 pm.
- Total damage for railways exceeds Rs 1.11 crore.
The report says fish plate and battered rail joints must not be used to fix long-welded rails. Speed restrictions must be imposed in fracture-prone areas. Railway Board must review the telescopic design of coaches as well, it urges.