Last Updated: June 06, 2023, 09:14 IST
A repair work going on at a level-crossing near the accident site that disrupted the Electronic Interlocking; a deliberate manipulation with the system; a flaw or glitch in the system that was also highlighted from an accident averted in February — these are the three major theories that have emerged as a possible reason of the horrific Odisha train accident that has killed over 275 people last week
The CBI has stepped into the probe now, government sources told News18, because various railway officials have forwarded either of the above three theories, and it is “important to ascertain the real reason” to avoid a recurrence of such an accident. A parallel inquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety is also ongoing in this.
Theory Number 1: Hurried Shortcut
It has emerged that there was a repair work was being done at a level-crossing barrier near the accident site on the fateful day when the Coromandel Express was slated to pass the station. The boom barrier here had malfunctioned and the railway staff was fixing the same to allow safe passage of the passenger trains. However, the suspicion is that a “shortcut job was done in a hurry” on the location box at the level crossing with the systems here, that need up disturbing the electronic interlocking system, sources say.
What this meant that the system ‘misguided’ the Coromandel Express from the main line to the loop where a passenger train was already parked and led to the accident. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has earlier said people responsible for the change in the electronic interlocking “have been identified” in an inquiry.
Theory Number 2: Sabotage
The second theory is that someone deliberately interfered with the system to cause the accident, which means a sabotage and a criminal conspiracy. This has been hinted at by former Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi in an interview with News18 where he pointed out that too many coincidences had happened at the same time involving three trains and suggested planning and calculations behind the disturbance with the system.
This has brought into focus the security of the relay room at the railway station in Balasore where the accident happened. The Railways, in fact, on Monday has issued a country-wide alert for the security of relay rooms and asked for the double-locking of signalling equipment and relay rooms. It has been pointed out by railway officials that the system has a fail-safe feature, which means all signals will turn red in case of an error, but the system seems to have been deliberately tinkered with by an expert.
Theory Number 3: A flaw
The third theory is whether the system suffers from a flaw. A similar accident was averted at Balasore this February in the Mysore division of South Western Railway with the Principal Chief Operations Manager highlighting serious flaws in the system that was contravening the “essence and basic principles of inter-locking” and asked for corrective actions to be taken. Then, it was alertness of the Loco-Pilot that led to the Sampark Kranti Passenger Express stopping in time after realising he was being asked to proceed on the wrong line where a goods train was headed towards it.
The letter made public by opposition parties now shows that the route of dispatch gets altered after a train starts on signals while the correct appearance keeps showing on the station masters panel. It warned that the electronic signal maintainer was probably getting access to the interlocking gears without opening the relay room that put the safety of electronic interlocking into jeopardy.
The CBI now has its hands full to carry out this technical probe to identify what exactly led to the Odisha accident.