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Utkal Express derailment: Railway Board member sent on leave

A mangled coach of the Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express being hauled off the track by a crane at Khatauli on Sunday.

A mangled coach of the Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express being hauled off the track by a crane at Khatauli on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

4 local officials suspended; ‘lapses in maintenance work led to Khatauli accident’

The Railway Ministry on Sunday sent three top officials on leave, suspended four local level officials and transferred another official after prima facie finding lapses in the maintenance work that led to the derailment of Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday and claimed at least 21 lives.

Secretary-level officer and Railway Board Member Engineering A.K. Mittal, General Manager Northern Railways R.N. Kulshrestha and Divisional Railway Manager Delhi R.N. Singh were sent on leave. The divisional engineer and senior divisional engineer of the railway section were suspended while the central track engineer of the Northern Railway was transferred.

According to a former Railway Board Chairman, this is one of the rare instances when a Railway Board Member has been sent on leave.

No laxity: Suresh Prabhu

The action comes after Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said on Sunday that he “will not allow laxity in operations by the Board” and ordered the Railway Board Chairman to fix responsibility within a day of the accident.

Senior Railway Ministry officials told The Hindu that welding work was underway near the Khatauli railway station in Uttar Pradesh, leaving a portion of the track without rails when the Utkal Express ran over it and derailed, as per the prima facie investigation. There were lapses at multiple levels in the track maintenance work, which was being carried out without taking due permission, before the accident on Saturday evening.

The track maintenance work was routine and could have been carried out even a day later, according to a top Railway Ministry official.

“It is prima facie found that there was a routine maintenance work going on related to welding of track joints near the Khatauli railway station. It was a normal maintenance work where you cut out a piece of track, put another one and weld it. The welding process takes about an hour,” the Railway Ministry official explained.

The divisional engineer, in consultation with the divisional operating manager, is required to take written consent from the stationmaster to get the ‘traffic block’ during which maintenance work related to the rail track is to be conducted. “Nobody is authorised to open the rail track without taking a (traffic) block and that too in the face of a running train — it is criminal. They started maintaining the track without the block,” the official claimed.

The Government Railway Police have filed a case under Sections 151, 154 and 427 of the Railways Act 1989 for causing damage to railway property, endangering safety of persons travelling by rail by an act of rash or negligence and mischief causing damage, respectively.

Commissioner of Railway Safety, Northern Circle, Shailesh Kumar Pathak will begin an inquiry on Monday.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 6:05:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/railway-board-member-sent-on-leave/article19530377.ece

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