The failure on the part of the loco shunter and shunting staff to seek the shunting permitted indicator (SPI) from the Route Relay Interlocking (RRI) cabin station master at Thiruvananthapuram Central railway station on May 6 resulted in the ‘trail through,’ damage to two points and disruption of rail traffic for several hours.
An inquiry by Railways into the incident has revealed that the shunting staff had failed in getting the SPI from the platform RRI cabin station master who was on duty while shifting the rake of the Venad Express around 4 a.m. from the yard to the shunting neck that extends up to Melarannoor level crossing gate on the Thiruvananthapuram-Nagercoil side.
The shunting master has to inform the RRI cabin over the walkie-talkie and on getting the information the RRI cabin station master gives the SPI to change the knob. The lever in the location had to be reversed by the shunting staff to get the SP indication. Electrical maintenance work on the overhead line was also carried out by a Tower car before the incident.
Railway sources said as the rake moved along the shunting neck without getting the SPI, two points, 61 and 62, were damaged and leading to trail through. Flickering was noticed in the indicators in the RRI cabin and this alerted the railway authorities.
On being alerted, the platform station master asked the technical staff to rush to the spot. They found the damage caused and informed the station master by 4.30 a.m. that the structural bar had to be replaced for train operations. The station manager also rushed to the spot around 4.40 a.m. after getting to know about the incident.
Pointing out that the mainline was not hit, the sources said the arrival and departure of trains from Road 1 and 2 were not affected. As the incident took place in the shunting neck, road 3, 4 and 5 were affected and this led to the inordinate delay. The Kollam-bound train from Madurai in which the Divisional Railway Manager arrived at Thiruvananthapuram Central station was received at 5.45 a.m.
At Thiruvananthapuram Central, there are two station masters — one each for panel and block — in the RRI cabin in addition to the platform station master. The sources said the platform station master was not at all involved in Monday’s incident as his job involved mainly road nomination, giving cautionary order, coordination with the departments and public announcements.
The outdoor station master was carrying out the shunting operations in the station for years and the incident could have been avoided if the post was not withdrawn by the divisional authorities. At present, station working rules were changed by the authorities and the shunting operations are carried out by the Shunting Master, a Group C staff. At the Central station, there is no clear instruction in the working rules on carrying out the shunting of the rake from yard to platform and from platform to yard. The sources said this exposed the laxity on the part of the operation wing.
The platform station master cannot know the movements in the yard as no visual indicators are available in the monitors before him. Railways have suspended the platform station master, shunter (loco pilot) and five yard staff. The inquiry into the incident is on.
However, Divisional Railway Manager Rajesh Agrawal said shunting irregularities led to the incident. Restoration of the outdoor station master had been suggested for efficient shunting operations.