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Brakes not touched; circumstances ‘out of normal:' Board chief

Ananya Dutta

Both loco pilot and assistant of Uttarbanga Express were sitting in their chairs; no effort made to jump out

— PHOTOS: ARUNANGSU ROY CHOWDHURY

GRIM TALE:A victim's hand is seen among the remains of a compartment of the Vananchal Express after it was hit by the Uttarbanga Express at Sainthia station in West Bengal's Birbhum district on Monday. (Right) Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee visits Sainthia after the collision.

KOLKATA: Pointing out anomalies in the events leading up to Monday's train collision at Sainthia in West Bengal, Railway Board Chairman Vivek Sahay did not rule out the possibility of sabotage and hinted at “wilful interference.”

The circumstances of the accident were “out of normal,” he said and emphasised that the “brakes were not touched.”

“According to prima facie reports, we know that the brakes were not applied. The emergency brake was also not applied. Both the loco pilot and the assistant loco pilot were sitting in their chairs; no effort has been made to jump out of the train,” Mr. Sahay told journalists here after visiting the site along with senior board officials.

Speed restriction

The accident must have occurred just after 2.01 a.m. when the Uttarbanga Express, running at 90 km an hour, rammed the Vananchal Express from behind, he said. At 1.8 km from the Sainthia station, there was a bridge on which there was a speed restriction of 30 km per hour.

Also, since Sainthia was a scheduled stop for the Uttarbanga Express, the train should have approached the station at 30 or 40 km an hour.

Secondly, the driver of the Uttarbanga Express and his assistant also ignored the ‘stop' home signal. Even if the driver had ignored it, the assistant driver could have applied the emergency brakes, Mr. Sahay said.

“Why was the train travelling so fast? What went wrong,” asked Mr. Sahay, adding this would be “the focus of investigations.”

Mr. Sahay also ruled out the possibility of brake failure because the Uttarbanga Express had stopped at the previous station, at Gadadhar, minutes before the accident. It had arrived at Gadadhar at 1.54 a.m. and departed at 1.56 a.m.“Its driver, M.C. Dey, was an ‘A' category driver — a category given to the best drivers for safety. His safety record had been exceptionally good,” Mr. Sahay said.

The guard was traumatised and could not be interrogated so far, Mr. Sahay said.

Frequency of accidents

On being asked about the frequency of accidents, several of them in the past few months, Mr. Sahay claimed that in fact the average accident rate had declined, but several incidents on mail and express trains occurred leading to higher causalities.

“Many of them have been found to have been caused by wilful interference. There have been five cases of accidents by wilful interference since January this year … Up to now, no Railway employee has been found to be involved,” he said.

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