Odisha train crash: Signal mistake put Coromandel Express on the death track; no Kavach on this route

The three-train crash in Odisha, eastern India, one of the biggest railway tragedies with an estimated 288 deaths and nearly a thousand injured, was caused by a signal mistake, it has emerged so far from the ongoing investigations. Moreover, this train route did not have the collision-prevention system named Kavach, as per reports today.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits train crash victims in Balasore. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@sambitswaraj

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik have visited Balasore, the town where the injured are being treated, to meet the patients and assure them of financial aid. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, a former Railway Minister, has visited the crash site and demanded explanations, and has also declared additional ex gratia payments. Present Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has been personally monitoring rescue operations and the resumption of train services after mass cancellations.

Also read: Odisha train crash: Death toll from three-train pile-up rises – Connected To India News

Meanwhile, even as train movements have just begun along the tracks where the massive crash occurred, near Bahanaga Bazar station, another goods train was derailed today in Odisha, in Bargarh. As per the newsflash, some bogies of the goods train were derailed, but no casualties were reported.

The three-train crash on June 2 began when the east-to-south Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express, which was going at a speed of more than 100kmph (well within the permissible limit) was directed to the loop line by the signalling system, instead of being directed to the main line, which should have been its track.

There were two parallel main lines for trains coming and going in opposite directions, and each main line was connected to a loop line, where a stationary train could wait without hindering the movement of running trains. Both the loop lines near Bahanaga Bazar station had a freight train standing on them. The Coromandel Express went at full speed into the loop line — the fatal signal error — and hit the freight train standing there. The force of the collision caused a massive derailment and the Coromandel coaches tumbled on to both the main tracks. Now the south-to-east Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, coming at a speed of more than 100kmph (also well within the permissible limit), hit the derailed bogies of the first passenger train and suffered its own derailment.

It is not yet clear if this accident could have been prevented by the Indian Railways’ Kavach (armour) system for prevention of collisions. Indian Railways has confirmed, as per today’s reports, that this particular route had no Kavach system — a radio frequency-enabled device system that tells a train if there is an obstacle ahead.

“The rescue operation has been completed. We are starting the restoration work. The Kavach system was not available on this route,” said Indian Railways spokesperson Amitabh Sharma, according to the news agency ANI.

There have been rumours of a possible sabotage, but no evidence has come up yet to support that claim.