Odisha Train Crash: Official Flagged ‘Serious Flaws In Signalling System’ 3 Months Ago

New Delhi: While an initial internal probe found that Odisha train mishap was possibly caused by the failure of the signaling system, officials in the railway board had reportedly warned about “serious flaws in the system” and raised concerns on failure of interlocking in February and sought immediate action.

The horrific 3-way train accident, involving Coromandel Express, SMVP-Howrah Superfast Express and a goods train at Bahanaga in Balasore district on June 2, has claimed at least 288 lives.

A report by ThePrint said the principal chief operating manager of South Western Railway zone in a letter dated February 9 had raised concerns of signal failure of an express train with the subject “Serious unsafe incident happened at Hosadurga Road station of Birur-Chikjajur section of Mysore division on 08.02.2023, involving Train no. 12649 Sampark Kranti Express, leading to condition for averted head-on collision with a down goods train (sic).”

He reportedly wrote,“…It was strange that the route of dispatch was set and (the) starter was taken off, PLCT was given, but point no: 65A automatically set in wrong direction (Down direction).” A PLCT refers to something called a Paper Line Clear Ticket which is used in special circumstances and allows a train to enter a block section.

He added, “due to the alertness of the loco pilot, the train was stopped before entering the wrong line (Down line) and averted a major disaster…”

The incident indicates that there are “serious flaws in the system where the route of dispatch gets altered after a train starts on signals with correct appearance of route in the SMS panel. This contravenes the essence and basic principles of interlocking,” the letter said.

He also warned if the signal maintenance system was not monitored and corrected immediately, it could lead to “re-occurrence and serious accidents”.

“Anything of this nature happening in one zone raises eyebrows everywhere,” a senior railway official was quoted as saying.

According to some officials present at a brainstorming session headed by Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnav Friday, just hours before the accident, presentations by various zones on railway safety were skipped, the report said, adding that only one zone was allowed to make the presentation on safety. Alarms over recent derailments of goods trains were also raised at the meeting.

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