‘Five-year-old circuit lapse led to train crash’

The circuit was shifted five years back without following the standard practice and there was no approved circuit diagram (for future reference) issued for the ELB replacement.
Representational image of the Odisha triple train tragedy
Representational image of the Odisha triple train tragedy

BHUBANESWAR:  Multiple lapses in signalling-circuit alteration carried out in 2018 at the north signal cabin led to the deadly train crash at Balasore’s Bahanaga Bazar railway station that claimed 293 lives and left over 900 injured on June 2.

Strange as it may sound but the Commissioner of Railways Safety (CRS) report submitted to the Rail Board on June 30 attributes the mishap to human error during replacement of electric lifting barrier (ELB) for level crossing (LC) gate - 94 at the station five years back.

As per the CRS report (accessed by The New Indian Express), the mistakes committed by the signalling and telecommunication (S&T) staff while shifting the point detection relay circuit at the north cabin back then led to the accident.  

The circuit was shifted five years back without following the standard practice and there was no approved circuit diagram (for future reference) issued for the ELB replacement. There were also anomalies in circuit names mentioned on the cable terminal rack. The change in names made during the shifting in 2018 was not reflected in the wiring diagram of the cabin, the report says.  

Prior to the train crash on June 2 that occurred at about 6.55 pm, a similar circuit replacement was conducted by a team of four - senior section engineer (SSE-signal) Amir Khan, technician (of Bahanaga) Abinash Ranjan Mohanty, technician (Balasore) Pappu Kumar and SSE signal in-charge AK Mahanta at the same cabin between 4.20 pm and 4.50 pm.

“Due to the lapses committed in 2018, the team disconnected wrong wires for the fresh repair work. Unaware about the lapses, they rewired for the new ELB. In the process, the team disconnected the feed coming from the cross over 17A/B to the point detection relay circuit and instead connected another circuit. For this, the indication feed of crossover was disassociated from the status of the track point at the site,” the report stated. The accident took place as the signal though was given for Coromandel Express for Up mainline, the track point was found set for Up loop line which is why the train moved on loop line and derailed after hitting the stationary goods train.

After the circuit repair on the fateful day, the report said, the S&T staff worked in the north cabin for road user signal circuits. Since sliding barrier circuits (standby arrangement for ELB of LC-94) were functional during the work, there was no restriction in taking off signals (turning green) for movement of trains. 

Five-year-old circuit lapse led to train crash: CRS report

“There were several unusual occurrences with the relay panel due to the lapses which were unnoticed by the station manager prior to the accident. Had the station manager informed the repeated unusual behaviour to the S&T staff, they could have traced the false feed and the accident could have been avoided,” the report added.

The report said a similar mismatch between the intended route set by signals and actual route taken by train was reported at Bankranayabaz station in Kharagpur division of South Eastern Railway on May 16 last year due to wrong wiring and cable fault.

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