CHENNAI: The initial joint inspection report by Kharagpur railway division officials revealed that the track joints were incorrectly positioned, and the signal panel in the station master's room failed to synchronize with them at Banahana Bazar station.
The combination of infrastructure failure and human error may have led to the tragic train accident that occurred on Friday at Banahana Bazar station in Balasore district, Odisha which resulted in the loss of over 268 lives and left 900 injured.
“The signal was given and taken off for the up main line for the Coromandel Express but the train entered into a loop line and clashed with goods train which was on the up loop line and derailed,” the report read.
“In the meantime, the Coromandel Express passed through on the DW (downward main line and two coaches were derailed and capsized," it added.
While railway officials failed to explain how the locomotive (WAP7), which was pulling the Coromandel Express, ended up perched on top of the adjacent goods train, the report indicated that the Coromandel Express, originally meant to run on the mainline, had entered the loop line where the freight train was stationed, travelling at a speed of 128 mph.
The TNIE had accessed a copy of the inspection report.
According to the report, the Coromandel Express (12841) departed from Khantapara station at 6.52 pm, proceeding along the mainline towards Bhadrak in Banahana Bazar station.
The train apparently took the wrong track, minutes before the accident occurred, according to the video footage from the signalling control room of the Kharagpur division of the Railways. Instead of following the main line, the Chennai-bound Coromandel Express mistakenly entered a loop line where a goods train was parked, shortly after passing Bahanagar Bazar station at approximately 6:55 pm on Friday.
However, track point 17A was set for the loop line, where a goods train was already stationed.
Surprisingly, the signal panel in the station master's room indicated that the Coromandel Express was assigned to the mainline at its maximum permissible speed (MPS), which in the Kharagpur-Bhadrak section stands at 130 kmph.
At a speed of 128 kmph, the Coromandel Express veered onto the loop line and collided with the stationary goods train, resulting in the derailment of 21 of its coaches.
This raises questions about why the signal panel failed to indicate the loop line setting when the track points were adjusted accordingly.
Simultaneously, the Yeswantpur-Howrah Superfast Express (12864), which passed Banahana Bazar at 6.55 pm, was about to cross the mainline.
Following the collision with the goods train, the derailed coaches from the Coromandel Express fell onto the rear of three coaches from the Howrah-bound express, causing them to derail as well.
As a result, a total of 21 coaches from the Coromandel Express and three coaches from the Yeswantpur-Howrah Superfast Express derailed.
A senior railway official told TNIE, "Coromandel Express was cleared to run at 130 kmph. Suddenly, it was diverted to the loop line and then rerouted to the mainline abruptly. The cause behind this sudden change can only be determined through a thorough investigation."
The train crash, one of the deadliest in the country, took place in Balasore district about 250 km south of Kolkata and 170 km north of Bhubaneswar around 7 pm on Friday, prompting the Railway Ministry to order a probe.
Three trains - the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express and a goods train were involved in the accident.
The Odisha government issued helpline 06782-262286. The railway helplines are 033-26382217 (Howrah), 8972073925 (Kharagpur), 8249591559 (Balasore) and 044- 25330952 (Chennai).