Lapses in signalling-circuit-alteration caused Balasore accident: Rail minister
The minister was replying to questions by CPI(M) leader John Brittas and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sanjay Singh in Parliament’s Rajya Sabha on the tragedy
Railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Friday said the lapses in the ‘signalling- circuit-alteration’ leading to wrong signals caused the tragic triple train accident in Odisha’s Balasore district in June.
The minister was replying to questions by Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader John Brittas and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Sanjay Singh in Parliament’s Rajya Sabha on the tragedy.
Brittas and Singh had asked the government to clarify whether the commissioner of railway safety (CRS) had submitted its report regarding the crash and whether they had set any timelines for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigations.
“The rear-collision was due to the lapses in the signalling-circuit-alteration carried out at the North Signal Goomty (of the station) in the past, and during the execution of the signalling work related to replacement of Electric Lifting Barrier for level crossing gate no. 94 at the Station. These lapses resulted in wrong signalling to the Train No. 12841 wherein the UP Home Signal indicated a Green aspect for run-through movement on the UP main line of the station”, Vaishnaw said in his written reply.
“But the crossover connecting the UP main line to the UP loop line (crossover 17 A/B) was set to the UP loop line; the wrong signalling resulted in the Train No. 12841 traversing on the UP loop line, and eventual rear-collision with the Goods train (No. N/DDIP) standing there,” Vaishnaw’ added.
Replying to a specific query by AAP’s Singh who had asked whether the principal chief operating manager of South-Western Railway zone was warned three months in advance through a letter about the defects in the electronic interlocking system to which the rail minister replied by saying that on 8 February 2023 the signalling maintainer or ESM and his assistant and had not followed proper procedure leading to a unusual condition which was soon identified by a loco-pilot, thus avoiding an untoward incident.
Replying to the query on total number of deaths in the accident, Vaishnaw said, “In the unfortunate train accident at Bahanaga Bazar Station (near Balasore) on 02.06.2023, 295 passengers lost their lives, 176 sustained grievous injuries, 451 suffered simple injuries and 180 received first aid treatment and left. In the said train accident, 254 deceased persons have been identified and their bodies handed over; 41 deceased persons are yet to be identified.”
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Shanmugam had queried about the details of compensation paid to which Vaishnaw replied, “Till 16 July, 2023, ₹29.49 crores has been paid as enhanced ex-gratia, ₹10 lakh to the next of kin of each deceased, ₹2 lakh each to the grievously injured and ₹50,000- each to the passengers with simple injury. As on 13.07.2023, 258 claim cases have been received in various benches of the Railway Claims Tribunal, out of which, 51 claims cases have been disposed off.”
Another leader Mukul Wasnik from the Congress party asked the government steps they are undertaking to prevent similar accidents from taking place to which the railway minister replied saying, “Other than taking up the staff under disciplinary rules, intensive safety drive was carried out on staff counselling to adopt proper and laid down procedure while maintenance and attending signalling failures, concept of Rolling Block was introduced, special drive has been launched to ensure double locking arrangement in Relay Room.”
Odisha’s Balasore saw one of the deadliest train accidents in India in the last three decades, in which at least 295 persons were killed with over 1,100 injured.