Balasore: The Chennai-bound Coromandel Express from Shalimar would have derailed even if it had not collided with the freight train at Bahanaga Bazaar station near Odisha’s Balasore Friday evening, senior railway officials said.
According to them, the train could not have negotiated the crossover into the loop line at 127 kmph under any condition. The death toll may have been less but there would have been mass casualties even then. The rear coaches of the Coromandel Express would have also whiplashed the Yeswanthpur-Howrah Superfast Express travelling at over 100 kmph, just as they did Friday.
“Trains are supposed to negotiate the crossover at 30 kmph. At best, a train can make the crossover safely if it is travelling at 40-45 kmph. At 127 kmph, it would have been impossible. A train is not a snake that can bend or twist its body according to ground conditions. A train is a composition of coaches attached to each other by couplings. There would have been a crosspool effect. Each one needs time to turn.
“Friday’s derailment was a combination of both the collision and the sudden turn towards the loop line. Even if the collision had not taken place, the derailment would have occurred and coaches would have been flung away in all directions,” a senior railway engineer said.
It is now confirmed that the ‘point’ or ‘switch’ (where the crossover to another track took place) remained in the ‘reverse’ position after the freight train entered the loop line. Ideally, it should have moved to the normal position to allow the Coromandel Express to take the main line. This did not happen, yet the signalling team received a confirmation and turned all signals to ‘off’ or green.
“The question that arises is why the fail-safe signals would turn to green if the point had not been reset to its normal position? Was there a problem with a relay (there are hundreds of them) or did somebody override the system to turn the red signals off? Under the fail-safe system, a signal always turns to red even if there is slight indication of a malfunction in the interlocking system.
“Railways minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has recommended a CBI probe and it ought to find out what actually took place. I just hope that the assistance of technically competent people is taken. A Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) probe is not desired in this case. After all, the CRS is itself a railway officer and neutrality can’t be assured. There has been gross negligence in this case and those involved need to be punished. In the past, there have been judicial probes after the Gaisal and Kalubathan accidents,” another officer said.
Even as assurances of help for families of those who died in the disaster are flowing in, long queues were witnessed outside the blood banks of hospitals in Balasore, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack where the injured have been moved for treatment.
“I travelled nearly 50 km to Balasore as I wanted to help. I am now standing in line to donate blood. I will provide any other assistance if doctors say so,” said Amit Mohanty, a trader. Srikant, resident of a village near Bahanaga Bazaar stood next to him and recounted how many people had not slept for over 36 hours after the accident while providing help to the victims.
“We reached the spot barely 15 minutes after the accident. There was death and destruction all around. People were lying dead and we had to be careful not to step on severed limbs. It was dark and we used electric torches and motorcycle headlights to pull out people from the mangled coaches. Many were severely injured. Fortunately, the railways reacted quite fast and relief trains arrived with men and material. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams also started arriving and a proper evacuation process was started. Many passengers with minor injuries also pitched in with support to help those who were seriously affected,” Srikant said.
Organisations like the Ramakrishna Vivekananda Mission in Barrackpore, North 24-Parganas, West Bengal, have also assured that it will take all responsibility of children orphaned due to the accident. Children from poor families affected by the disaster will also be taken care of, Swami Nityarupananda of the Mission tweeted.