At least 275 people were killed and more than 1,000 were left injured in a horrific three-train collision, involving a Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, and a goods train in Odisha’s Balasore district on June 2.
Earlier, the Railways had declared the death toll at 288. However, on June 4, the Odisha government put the death toll at 275, saying that some bodies had been counted twice.
The accident occurred when the Coromandel Express, travelling on the main line heading south, crashed into a goods train parked on a loop line at the Bahanaga Bazar station in Bihar. The Yashwantpur-Howrah express, on the main line travelling north, then collided with some of the Coromandel Express’ derailed coaches.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik visited the spot on June 3 to take stock of the accident — dubbed as one of the most tragic accidents in the country.
Railway Board alleges ‘signalling interference’
The Railway Board has recommended a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on June 4. The Board said that “signalling interference” has been identified as the main cause of the accident.
Saying that the root cause of the collision had been identified as a problem in electronic interlocking — which is the operational signalling system for this stretch of the track — the Minister added that the people responsible for the error had also been identified.
Mr. Vaishnaw denied that the incident had anything to do with the anti-collision system “Kavach”.
Kavach — the state-of-the-art indigenously developed automatic train protection system (ATPS) project — has not been implemented yet on the Howrah-Chennai line passing through at least four railway zones.
Congress demands Rail Minister’s resignation
The Congress has demanded the resignation of Ashwini Vaishnaw and asked if the Narendra Modi government ‘prioritised’ publicity of Vande Bharat trains over rail safety.
The party alleged that the Rail Minister’s “PR gimmicks” overshadowed the “serious deficiencies, criminal negligence and complete disregard for safety and security of Indian Railways”.