The Utkal Express derailment

Utkal Express derailment: yawning gaps in communication and track safety

Tragic incident: A mangled coach of the Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express train being hauled off the railway track using a crane at Khatauli, near Muzaffarnagar, on Sunday.

Tragic incident: A mangled coach of the Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express train being hauled off the railway track using a crane at Khatauli, near Muzaffarnagar, on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

While senior Railway Ministry officials have suggested that a likely reason for the derailment of the Utkal Express at Khatauli was the carrying out of repairs on the track, employees of different railway wings in the Khatauli-Muzaffarnagar area have started a blame game.

Employees of the Railway Engineering Department in Khatauli maintain that they had informed the station officials about the repairs on Saturday evening, but Station Master Rajendra Singh told The Hindu that he was not aware that the work was on.

“We had informed senior officials of the Khatauli station that the tracks were unsafe because repairs were on. We had obviously informed them about the repairs, and that is why the two trains that passed Khatauli before Utkal Express were run at extremely slow speeds,” an official of the Engineering Department said on the condition of anonymity.

 

Cracked plate

“We had asked for 20 minutes for blocking the track because one joint plate had cracked,” the official added, without elaborating if the workers doing the repairs were told that the requested time was granted.

Mr. Singh, however, insisted that nothing was on record to prove that the station officials were informed of the repairs. Jagat Colony, the exact place where 14 coaches of the train jumped off the track, is about 400 metres from the Khatauli station. By railway rules, no train can pass a station without its station master giving the green signal.

“There was no question of not giving the go-ahead to the train because we were not in the know of the repairs. In this case, I must say clearly that it is no fault of the station master or any of the station staff,” Mr. Singh said.

 

‘Not informed’

“The repairs cannot happen without prior permission for blockage of traffic. The Engineering Department has to inform the Station Manager and also get the go-ahead for the blocking from senior officials in the Delhi division because I do not control the traffic. Senior officials need to be informed so that the routes and timings of trains are better supervised and monitored.”

Additional Director General, Government Railway Police, Vijay Maurya, who was on the accident site for rescue work and clearing of tracks, told The Hindu that initial investigations suggested the repairs led to the accident. “Many eyewitnesses and local residents are saying that repairs were on at the track when the accident happened,” Mr. Maurya said.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2020 5:30:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/utkal-express-derailment-unfinished-repairs-unshared-information-and-a-colossal-accident/article19530049.ece

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