What Caused Odisha Train Accident? Possible Signalling Failure Blamed For Biggest Rail Disaster In Decades

Odisha train accident: The Indian Railways has launched a high-level probe into the train crash in Odisha, which is touted as the worst rail disaster in decades. Three trains, including Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express and a goods train were involved in a deadly accident on June 2, 2023. More than 280 lives were lost, while close to 1000 people have been reported injured. The enquiry into the incident is headed by the commissioner of railway safety, South Eastern Circle, officials said on Saturday. While it is not clear what caused the crash, sources indicated a possible signalling failure.

Odisha Train Accident: Cause

A preliminary investigation submitted to the Railway Board has revealed that the Coromandel Express train involved in the rail tragedy in Odisha on Friday entered the loop line instead of the main line. The Express train running at a speed of 128 kmph crashed into a goods train parked in the loop line just ahead of the Bahanagar Bazar station, reported PTI quoting a source.

The express train rear ended into a goods train on the loop line, resulting in 4-5 coaches to scatter on the adjacent track. Around the same time, the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express was running at a speed of 116 kmph. The coaches of Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express capsized after crashing into the coaches of Coromandel Express that had scattered on the adjacent track.

The loop lines of the Indian Railways are constructed in a station area — in this case, the Bahanagar Bazar station — to accommodate more trains to ease out the operations. The loop lines are generally 750 metres in length to accommodate full-length goods train with multiple engines, reported PTI.

KAVACH Not Available

The Indian Railways also confirmed that the KAVACH anti-collision technology was not available on the route. “The rescue operation has been completed. Now, we are starting the restoration work. Kavach was not available on this route,” Indian Railways Spokesperson Amitabh Sharma said.  The railways is in the process of installing “Kavach”, an anti-train collision system, across its network.

Kavach alerts when a loco pilot jumps a signal (Signal Passed at Danger — SPAD), which is the leading cause of train collisions. The system can alert the loco pilot, take control of the brakes and bring the train to a halt automatically when it notices another train on the same line within a prescribed distance.

“A M Chowdhary, CRS, SE Circle, will inquire into the accident,” a spokesperson of the Indian Railways said. The commissioner of railway safety works under the Ministry of Civil Aviation and investigates all such accidents.

In February, close on the heels of a head-on collision between two goods trains in Uttar Pradesh, the railways launched a month-long safety drive to prevent accidents such as derailment and overshooting of signals by loco pilots. Under the drive, senior officers of the Railway Board, zonal railways and divisions were instructed to visit various sections, lobbies of crews, maintenance centres, work sites etc. and carry out a “thorough review of the working practices” to check and enforce safe operational and maintenance practices.