India: signal failure likely accident cause, freight train indirectly involved
The train accident in India (Odisha state) on Friday, 2 June, marks one of the deadliest railway disasters in the country, with at least 288 dead and over 1,000 injured. Officials investigating the accident during the weekend claim it occurred after a signalling system failure. A stationary train was also indirectly involved since the passenger train crashed on it.
According to preliminary investigations, a signal failure led the Coromandel Express onto a loop track used to park trains. “It is about a point machine, electronic interlocking. The change that occurred during electronic interlocking, the accident happened due to that. Whoever did it and how it happened will be found out after proper investigation”, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told local media.
Once on the loop, the passenger train soon crashed into a stationary freight train whilst travelling at 128 kilometres per hour. The freight train was reportedly loaded with iron ore. This meant that it was so heavy that several passenger train coaches were upended upon impact. In the ensuing mayhem, those coaches hit another passenger train in the opposite direction on the other main track. That train was reportedly travelling at great speed, too: 126 kilometres per hour.
Almost 72 hours after the accident, the tracks have already been cleared of debris and restored, with the first trains transiting again. Rescue and identification operations continue.
Same story, different place
With 13 million passengers transported daily, the Indian railway network is probably one of the busiest in the world. However, Indian media claim it has been left to its fate for years, neglected and without the needed upgrades. Despite the government pouring millions into upgrades recently, the network’s poor state also contributed to the accident. After all, as CNN reports, this is not the first: since 2021, more than 16,000 people have been killed in almost 18,000 railway accidents across the country.
As for the proceeding accident investigation, the Indian railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that whoever made the mistake that possibly led to the accident will be found, while the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi stated while visiting the accident’s site that people found guilty will be punished stringently. This is reminiscent of how the Greek government handled the major railway accident in March by attributing it to human error and thus being accused of scapegoatism.