In one of the deadliest train accidents in India, nearly 300 passengers died and nearly 1000 injured when three trains collided in Odisha’s Balasore on Friday. The tragic accident happened after Coromandel Shalimar Express, heading to Chennai, reportedly derailed and hit a goods train, which led to many coaches flipping over the adjacent tracks. Another train, the Yesvantpur-Howrah-superfast, then crashed into the derailed coaches of the other two trains. Both trains were moving at a high speed when the collision took place.
The horrific train crash happened near the Bahanaga Bazaar station in Balasore district, about 250 km south of Kolkata and 170 km north of Bhubaneshwar, around 7pm in the evening, when many passengers were sleeping and it is considered as one of the most deadly train accidents in Indian history.
India's Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said the cause of the horrific train accident in Odisha will be known after a probe and the government will set up a "high-level inquiry". "The rescue operation has been completed and restoration work has started. We will thoroughly investigate this incident and will ensure such incidents don't happen in future," said Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
While it is not clear what caused the crash, PTI said sources indicate a possible signalling failure.
How it happened?
The Coromandel Express, running at the speed of 127km per hour, collided with the goods train and derailed on the main line, as the statement given by the railway minister. Within few minutes, the Howarh-bound Yesvantpur-Howarh superfast coming from the opposite direction collided with the derailed Coromandel Express.
Primary investigation report
According to the initial reports from the signalling control room of the railways, the accident may have been the result of human error or signal error since the train took the wrong track minutes before the tragedy. According to a senior railway official, a video from the signalling control room of the Kharagpur division of the railways shows that Chennai-bound Coromandel Express took a loop line where a freight train was parked near Bahanagar Bazar station, instead of the main line. The video clearly shows four railway tracks including two main lines and two loop lines.
The Indian Railways spokesperson also clarified that the anti-train collision system was not available on this route.
What is anti-train collision system and how it works?
The anti-train collision system alerts when a loco pilot misses a signal (Signal Passed at Danger — SPAD), which typically is the leading cause for train collisions. The system can alert the pilot, and then take control of the brakes to bring the train to a halt if it notices another train on the same line within a prescribed distance. KAVACH is the anti-collision system designed in India to efficiently minimize train fatalities, it minimises the possibilities of a mistake to a one-in-10,000-year margin.
As part of the technology, radio frequency equipment is put on rail tracks, signalling devices on railway tracks and train motors to constantly transmit messages back and fourth in real time to show that the route upon which the train is running is clear of all obstacles.
Talking about the safety of railway tracks, it is maintained by continues inspections, maintenance, and monitoring. This includes checking for damages, wear to the tracks, as well as ensuring that they are properly aligned and levelled. Additionally, technologies such as cameras and sensors to monitor tracks for potential issues or trespassing are also used these days.
What is the total cost of the anti-train collision system?
The total budget of the Project Kavach is estimated to be approximately Rs 30-50 lakh per km, with a two-to-three –year timeline for private players to deploy the network across the many regions that will be auctioned out. As per the first phase plan, Indian Railways will deploy the upgraded anti-train collision system throughout the 2000 train route lines.
The total outlay for the deployment is roughly Rs 34,000 crore. Rs 50 lakh per kilometre, a fourth compared with Rs 2 crore that similar enhanced safety measures cost in other parts of the world.
So far, the Kavach has been deployed in 1,098RKM and 65 locomotives in ongoing projects of the South central Railways. It is also planned to be implemented on Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Howarah corridors as part of the Mission Raftar project for increasing the speed of trains to 160 kilometer per hour.
What other countries use to avoid such collision?
Developed countries like Europe is using ERTMS. The European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS) is a major industrial project developed by eight UNIFE members. ERTMS works as a safe monitoring system that works as per the track and train data and it continuously supervises the speed of the train. If the actual train speed exceeds the permitted data, brakes are applied automatically. This ensures the train will be stopped in front of the danger point.
Countries as diverse as China, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Algeria , Libya, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia have invested in the program.
How much government is spending on Indian Railways infrastructure?
Indian Railways has received Rs 2.40 lakh crore boosts and it is one of the highest capital outlays for railways. It is considered as the top priority sector in terms of allocation to launch new trains and upgrade of existing Indian Railways infrastructure. The ministry had received gross budgetary support of Rs 1.37 lakh crore towards capital expenditure and Rs 3,267 crore for revenue expenditure.