Days after the devastating train accident which claimed the lives of 275 passengers and left over 900 injured in Odisha, the Indian Railways has decided to secure the goomties housing signalling equipment on railway station premises with a ‘double-lock’ arrangement.
Goomty is a small cabin or small structure covering lever frame and other fixed equipment, at level-crossings and near railway stations.
In a circular to General Managers of all Zonal Railways issued on Monday, Tej Prakash Agrawal, Executive Director, Safety, Railway Board, directed that a month-long safety drive be launched to ensure goomties located within the railway station limits are provided with double locks.
Senior officials were told to inspect and ensure compliance to the existing double-locking arrangement of relay rooms, a sensitive installation that controls the signals, points and interlocking system, in the railway station where the Station Master would have one key and the Signal Maintainer the other. They were also told to ensure that SMS alert is generated on opening/closure of relay rooms.
Access control measures
The dual-lock access control is to ensure standard safety guidelines while accessing signalling equipment are followed. Officials were told to check whether the norms and guidelines in the process of disconnection and reconnection of signal and telecommunication equipment were being scrupulously followed by the station staff.
The instructions to secure the signalling equipment come at a time when a signalling failure is suspected to be the reason why the Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express entered the loop line while its signal was cleared for passage on the down main line at the Bahanaga Bazar station. The Superfast Express collided with a stationary goods train in the loop line. Some coaches fell on the adjacent up main line causing the derailment of the Yeshwatpur-Howrah Express which entered the station at the same time.
Shailendra Kumar Goel, former Director-General, Indian Railway Institute of Signal Engineering and Telecommunications, told The Hindu that the Odisha accident took place on one of the busiest routes of the Railways where the line capacity utilisation was in excess of 100%.
On such busy routes, hardly any time was given to the staff for carrying out maintenance or repair works. The maintenance personnel needed a block or disconnection (temporary suspension of the signalling system at the station) to carry out maintenance of signalling equipment or to attend to repairs, he said.
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Breach of protocol
“Since blocks are not routinely available on the high-density routes, Signalling and Station Operating Staff often breach the prescribed safety protocols and informally access the sensitive installations. It is suspected that the Coromandel Express accident might have been caused by such unauthorised tampering of the signalling system where the signal was given for main line passage and the point took the train to the loop line,” he said.
However, Mr. Goel said, an in-depth investigation by an expert investigating agency was needed to ascertain the real cause of the accident.