Says speedometer record will prove his stand

The driver of the Mainline Electrical Multiple Unit (MEMU), which collided with a passenger train, leaving ten dead and 50 others injured near Arakkonam in Vellore district on Tuesday night, has claimed that he did not cross the signal in danger (red), police sources have said.

Reiterating that he strictly followed the signal protocol, Rajkumar (40) told investigators at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital here on Thursday that the speedometer record in the MEMU locomotive would prove that he had slowed down ahead of the signal when it showed yellow, and increased speed after it turned green.

A special team led by Deputy Superintendent of Police V. Ponram examined the driver and some Southern Railway officials in connection with the case. Mr. Rajkumar told the police that he did not jump out and tried his best to stop the train so as to avert a collision. Though he noticed the last vehicle of the Arakkonam-Katpadi passenger about 200 metres ahead, the MEMU could not be stopped as it was doing 75 kmph.

“The driver claimed that he slowed down to 30 kmph on seeing the signal in yellow between Melpakkam and Chitheri railway stations. However, the signal turned green, following which he increased the speed to 75-80 kmph. On seeing the passenger train on the same track, Rajkumar said that he applied the brakes to slow down,” Mr. Ponram said.

Mr. Rajkumar asserted that he was in the train at the time of the collision and suffered injuries on his head/face in the impact. He also denied having used his mobile phone at the time of the accident, the sources said.

When contacted, a senior Southern Railway official said that preliminary investigation had confirmed that the signals on the stretch between Melpakkam and Chitheri railway stations had functioned normally.

“We have an automatic signalling system that turns red when there is a train in a particular section. Thereafter, as the train crosses sections ahead, the signal turns to double yellow, yellow and, finally, green. The signal cannot turn green when there are two trains in the same section.”