Though the exact cause of Tuesday’s derailment on the Western Railway will be known only after a detailed probe, railway officials said the mishap could have been due to a foreign body, or a part of the train’s underbelly, coming into contact with the track.
Their theory is based on the fact that about 100m behind the accident spot, fastening clips, which hold together the tracks and sleepers (horizontal cement planks) were found damaged.
WR officials suspect that as the Churchgate-bound train approached the crossover (track changing point) where it derailed, something began hitting these clips, knocking them loose. By the time the train reached the crossover, it began to derail. While the first four coaches remained on track, the fifth jumped onto the adjoining line. In all, seven coaches derailed.
Some railway officials, however, said simple track failure could not be ruled out. “We are trying to ascertain the cause of the accident. So far we have found damaged fastening clips about 100m behind the accident spot,” said a senior railway official. As the train was travelling at speed when it derailed, it caused damage to a further 1.5km of track, including two crossover points, and uprooted a pole carrying overhead wires. Officials said restoring this section would be a big challenge.
“A detailed inquiry will be conducted into this incident,” said Sharat Chandrayan, chief public relations officer, WR. Tuesday’s derailment ensured a second straight day of harrowing journeys for lakhs of people. Around 130 local services were cancelled till late Tuesday evening.
Sujata Sapre, a professor at the International Institute of Sports Management, said, “Almost all students reached college late today because of delayed trains. One of my colleagues had taken a Churchgate-bound train from Goregaon at 10am. She arrived at Churchgate at 2.30pm. Evening peak-hour trains were also delayed and overcrowded. I didn’t board two consecutive Borivali-bound trains as they were too crowded.”
Some even left their offices early to avoid the evening rush but still had to wait for up to 20 minutes for a train. “I left early today so that my train would be less crowded but the situation was bad even at 5pm,” said Satyavan Joshi, 55, who works as an accountant for a private firm.