The motorman of the Titwala-bound suburban local train that rammed into the rear of an empty Thane suburban train at Thane station of Mumbai division on Central Railway last night had reportedly switched off the safety apparatus of the train, putting to risk lives of thousands of passengers.
The collision between two local trains is just one of the four major incidents on Central Railway since the last five months, seriously questioning the safety standards of the railway's passenger services.
Sources said the motorman concerned had switched off the Auxillary Warning System, which halts the train automatically if it passes a red signal.
"The Titwala train that started from Mumbai CST at 10:53 reached Thane around 11:50 pm. The train, driven by Anil Chinchalkar who was not even in uniform, passed a red signal and rammed into the stationary train standing at Thane station, which was on its way to Kalwa crashed," a senior railway official said. Chinchalkar has now been suspended and his blood samples send for tests to find if he was drunk.
But why did the AWS system that is equipped in all trains did not halt the train automatically after the signal was passed?
"It was in isolated position when we checked the cab, which means it was off. The train rammed at a speed of around 35kmph into the Thane train, damaging a few couplers and the compartment wall," Mumbai's divisional railway manager RS Virdi said.
Sources said this is a usual trend as the AWS halts the train entirely, leading to loss of time and affecting punctuality. So to avoid this, many motormen switch it off to save time. If punctuality is affected, motormen are subject to intense inquiries.
The Titwala train that collided was of the new AC-DC technology, which can run at a speed of 100 kmph. The leading coach involved in the mishap, 320C, was made at Integral Coach Factory Chennai and sent to Mumbai 7 February, 2003.
20 commuters in the luggage compartment of the new technology AC-DC Titwala train, which can run at 100 kmph, were injuried. While 12 of them had simple injuries and given Rs 500 each, 7 were discharged after giving first aid and Sukesh Das who has been seriously injured has been given Rs 5,000, said CR's Public relations department.
The commissioner of railway safety (central circle), which comes under the ministry of civil aviation, will conduct an inquiry into the accident.
Safety issues of CR passenger trains
· December 13: Boulder collapse in tunnel on Karjat Panvel line kills one, injures many railway workers
· November 4: Motorman dies after bringing local train at Kalyan station
· October 30: Banker engine collides with train at Kasara
· May 21: Chennai Express from Mumbai, packed with more than 2,000 passengers, flouted a red danger signal, lost track and entered Karjat yard on May 21.
· May 3: Local train derails between Diva and Dombivli stations because of rail fracture
What is AWS?
AWS or the Auxiliary Warning System is a system of providing some advance notification of upcoming signal aspects to the motorman via a display panel in the driving cab of the train. This was originally introduced by WR in the early 1980s. Central Railway introduced AWS somewhat later. The AWS panel in the driving cab has an alarm buzzer, a vigilance button, and indicator lights. When the motorman passes a red signal and the motorman is not alert, the brakes (either electropneumatic or emergency pneumatic) are applied and the train comes to a complete halt.