Close shave for passengers as 22 coaches travel 15 km sans engine
In a strange incident that could have led to a major tragedy, at least 22 coaches of an express train with passengers on board travelled over 15 km without an engine in Odisha late on Saturday night.
The incident took place a few minutes after the train arrived at the Titilagarh station at around 9.30 pm. While the engine shunting process was underway at the railway station, the coaches of the train rolled down the tracks without an engine up to Kesinga in Kalahandi district.
A possible disaster was averted after alert staff put stones on the track and brought the Ahmedabad-Puri Express to a halt, an East Coast Railway spokesperson said on Sunday.
“All passengers are safe and no one was hurt when the coaches moved towards Kesinga (under Sambalpur railway division) after the engine was detached to be attached at the other end of the train,” he added.
The incident happened apparently due to non-application of skid-brakes on the wheels of the coaches by the staff deployed there. According to rules, the staff should have put the skid-brakes, he said.
Following the incident, seven railway men were suspended in connection with lapses. While five railway personnel were placed under suspension on Sunday morning, two had been suspended soon after the coaches of the train rolled down the track at Titlagarh in Balangir district after detachment of the engine, he said.
Two engine drivers, three carriage repairing staff and two operating department employees were placed under suspension, he said.
In the wake of the incident, Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani on Sunday ordered a month-long safety drive across the network. The drive will be carried out jointly by operating and electrical departments, according to a statement issued by the Indian Railways.
During the drive overseen by chief safety officers, shunting staff and loco pilots or shunters would be monitored. At the end of the drive, general managers will have to submit a report about their “observations, actions taken and suggestions for improvement,” the statement stated.
The coaches travelled from Titlagarh station towards Kesinga in Kalahandi district after the engine was detached to be attached at the other end, the spokesman said, adding the section from Titlagarh towards Kesinga has a downward slope.
“When an engine is detached to be attached at the other end, coaches should be secured with wheel skid-brakes. In this case, it appears that skid-brakes were not placed properly. Facts will be known after a detailed enquiry,” he said.
Soon after the incident, an engine was sent from Titlagarh to ferry the coaches back, he said.
Divisional Railway Manager, Sambalpur, Jaideep Gupta has ordered a probe by divisional heads of different departments, the spokesman said.
ECoR General Manager Umesh Singh said immediate corrective measures will be initiated and strict action taken against those responsible for the incident.
“Strictest action will be initiated against any negligent act endangering safety of trains. Safety is non-negotiable and cannot be compromised. Strict action will be taken against any railway employee found guilty,” Singh said.
ECoR Chief Safety Officer SS Mishra has advised a special safety drive at all stations in the zone where engine reversal of mail and express trains takes place and also at terminals where trains terminate, the spokesman said. Some of these stations are Talcher, Bhadrakh, Angul, Paradip, Cuttack, Bhubaneswar, Puri and Sambalpur.