MUZAFFARNAGAR: The station master of Khatauli had at least twice requested the Delhi-based railway control room for a "block" to repair the tracks but was denied permission which delayed the repair work, a senior railway official claimed today.
A "traffic block" is required when a line needs to be locked against movement of vehicles for maintenance work. Such a block is granted by the section controller, who in this case is stationed in the Delhi divisional regional manager's office.
"The station master had asked the controller for the block but it was denied. This is a big negligence," the official, who did not wish to be identified, said.
The Commissioner, Railway Safety, Shailesh Kumar Pathak, who is heading the probe into the August 19 derailment of the Utkal Express, today visited the site and interacted with officials.
Official sources said Pathak has learnt of the denial of permission and is believed to be considering action against the officials concerned.
The sources also said that the focus on punctuality is often the reason behind many blocks being denied routinely, which results in delays in maintenance work.
Senior officials also maintain that questions have also been raised on why repair work was being carried out on the track despite the permission being denied.
It was found during the preliminary inquiry that the fish plate and nut bolts were not fixed properly which could have led to the accident.
Pathak told reporters here today that he would submit his report to the railway board. He noted that "strict action" was taken by the railways after the accident.
"This is the biggest action in railway history," he said.
Meanwhile, district authorities said that all bodies except one have been identified. At least 20 people died in the
accident on August 19 when 13 coaches of Haridwar bound train derailed.
Pathak, who has now returned to Delhi, is expected to speak with officials of the engineering department of the Aurangabad division under whom the permanent way maintenance staff operate.
He is also likely sieve through all the evidence, including exhaustive photographs of the spot, measurements of tracks and multiple video clips which have so far surfaced after the accident.
The sources indicated that Pathak is likely to submit his report in a month.
Yesterday, the Railways sent on leave three top officials, including a secretary-level Railway Board member, suspended four officers and transfered a track engineer.
Member (engineering) on the Railway Board, Northern Railway general manager and divisional regional manager (Delhi) were asked to go on leave in the aftermath of the derailment that also left 156 people injured.
The four officials suspended were a senior divisional engineer, an assistant engineer, a senior section engineer responsible for track maintenance and a junior engineer.
Meanwhile, M C Chahuan, who assumed office as General Manager, Northern Railway today after R K Kulshrestha was sent on leave, met the DRMs of Northern Railway Delhi, Ambala, Moradabad, Lucknow, Firozpur divisions this morning at Northern Railway Headquarters Office here via video conferencing, said an official statement from the railways.
Emphasizing that safety in train operations is of paramount priority, Chauhan exhorted all divisions of the zone to undertake safety drives in identified core areas of operations.
He also reviewed the ongoing safety related projects and urged department heads and divisional heads to assign highest importance to safety challenges, the statement said.