Railway Board chairman Vivek Sahay’s effort to pin the blame on the drivers of the speeding Uttarbanga Express for Monday’s train crash in Bengal runs contrary to the versions of train drivers and guards who spoke to Hindustan Times after the disaster.
“The driver ignored a red signal and kept on driving the train at an average speed of 90 kmph towards the Vananchal Express,” Sahay said at a press conference here. He said the speed before entering the station should have been 30 kmph.
The Railway Board chairman also said the driver ignored directions to reduce speed. “The driver didn’t even touch the brakes or the emergency brakes,” he said.
Retired driver Shantimoy Das, who drove trains in the Sainthia and nearby sectors for 18 years, said the Sainthia station works on a system called the Absolute Block System (ABS), which involves the exchange of a secret pin number between stationmasters of two consecutive stations.
This secret number is sole proof of any communication having taken place between stationmasters. Das felt that the accident could not have taken place if the pin numbers were exchanged successfully. “When a train leaves a station for another, the stationmaster of the first station calls up the stationmaster of the next station to talk about the clearance of the line.
“When the communication is closed a secret pin number is exchanged. This is the proof that the train’s passage and line’s availability had been discussed.”
Adityapur station guard Sanjay Kumar said, “ In my four years of service, I have never seen or heard of such an act of incompetence. This is not possible. One driver may fall asleep, but both of them sleeping at the same time as put forward by the authorities, is beyond comprehension. “Let us consider for a moment that this has been the case. What was the guard doing? Was he also asleep? Both drivers and the guard of a speeding train sleeping at the same time?”
Kumar added, “There is an air pressure mechanism in a train. We have a distributor valve through which a guard can bring the train to a halt by using a kind of a gear.”