The railways has ordered a probe into Sunday’s derailment of the Indore-Patna Express even as an officer blamed a crack in the tracks for India’s worst train accident in six years that left at least 100 people dead.
Fourteen coaches of the express train flew off tracks near Pukhrayan in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur Dehat district at around 3.10am, injuring more than 100 people, many of them seriously.
“Prima facie it seems that the train derailed due to a crack that developed in the track. The engine of the train did not derail whereas the coaches behind it went off the rails, giving credence to the crack theory,” said a railway officer, who did not wish to be named.
Minister of state for railways Rajen Gohain, too, said something similar. “We haven’t seen an incident like this in Indian Railways for a long time because we have taken a lot of safety measures… There must be a fault in the track as 14 bogeys have derailed and this happened despite regular checking of the tracks,” he said.
Poor track maintenance, including lack of proper fittings causes fracture on the tracks. While a simple crack may not be a cause of worry, a severe fracture causing separation of the track could lead to derailment.
Senior rail officials would probe various angles including sabotage, the rail official said.
There seem to be some takers for the sabotage theory. BJP’s Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj claimed a conspiracy behind the train tragedy. The party’s Lok Sabha member and senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi said the accident was a conspiracy to defame the railways and the Modi government.
The death toll was also high due to absence of Linke Holfmann Bush (LHB) coaches in the train, sources said. Had there been stainless steel LHB coaches the damage could have been contained as these can absorb shock and impact of derailment more effectively and do not topple.
The accident comes at a time when railways is looking for ways to improve service and revamp the creaking British-era infrastructure.
Talking to journalists in Delhi, home minister Rajnath Singh said all aspects, including the conspiracy theory, would be probed.
“The train might have derailed due to a technical fault or crack in the track. Usually, Maoists active in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh have targeted trains,” a police officer said but added the rebels were not active in the area.
Additional director general of police (law and order) Daljit Singh Chawdhary said the state police would help the railways in the probe.
When asked if rail minister Suresh Prabhu should resign, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said there should be no politics on the accident. The focus should be on rescue and relief work, he said.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati demanded a time-bound inquiry into the accident.
(With PTI inputs)