The driver of the ill-fated Coromandel Express, which derailed in Odisha’s Balasore on Friday, killing 270 people, was conscious after the catastrophe and was in a situation to certify that he received a green signal, according to the Railway Board. Jaya Varma Sinha, a member of the Railway Board in charge of operations and commercial development, recounted her conversation with the Coromandel driver. “He was awake at the time.” He could only remark that he had received a green signal. His condition deteriorated after that, and he is now hospitalised,” Jaya Varma Sinha said on Sunday. Read | The Railway Board describes how the Coromandel Express derailed, causing a triple-train disaster.
GN Mohanty piloted the Coromandel Express. Hajari Behera was the loco pilot’s assistant. Both were seriously hurt.
“The Yesvantpur’s TT told me he heard an unusual sound coming from the back.” He sensed an impending impediment. He couldn’t figure out what it was. Following the A1 coach were two general coaches and the guards’ coach. “The previous two coaches were derailed,” Jaya Varma explained.
The goods train guard who the Coromandel Express hit was not inside the compartment at the time of the collision. “It was fortuitous that his life was preserved. According to railway regulations, the guard and driver of a goods train are responsible for its safety when parked. So these people were standing outside the train, checking it. “They were carrying out their responsibilities,” Varma explained.
The Coromandel Express piled into the freight train’s brake van, where the guard was meant to be. “It was by God’s grace that the guard was not present at the time,” Varma explained.
‘There was no fault on the part of the Coromandel driver.’
The Railway Board has given the Coromandel Express driver a clean chit since early research points to ‘signalling interference’ that caused the Coromandel to take the loop line where the cargo train was stopped. Railway Board officials said the train was within its speed limit and did not jump any signals.
The four lines at the Bahanagabazar Railway Station, the terrible triple train collision site.
What went wrong with the Coromandel Express?
There is an operational point if a train approaches the loop line. It is also determined whether or not the line is occupied. Sandeep Mathur, primary executive director of Signalling, says that the interlocking system aids in determining these two aspects. “When the train arrives at the main line, the signal turns green.” The signal is yellow when the point takes the train to the loop line. “This is how the interlocking system works,” Mathur explained, adding that the equipment at the Bahanagabazar station is electrical.
‘Tamper-proof interlocking system, yet possibly…’
Varma said that the electrical interlocking mechanism is fail-safe and that if it does fail, the signal should turn red. “However, as happened here, there could have been some interferences.” Not referring to this specific incident, but it is possible that someone cut the cable unknowingly while digging. Or perhaps there was a short circuit – these are not common occurrences. “All machines are 99.9% fail-safe, but there is a 1% chance of malfunctioning,” Varma said, adding that the people responsible have been identified.