Speculation Mounts Over Human Intervention in Odisha Train Crash as CBI Probe Recommended
June 05, 2023: The recent triple train crash in Odisha, which resulted in the tragic loss of over 270 lives and left more than 1,000 people injured, has raised concerns about the possibility of human involvement in the signaling system error that led to the accident.
Following the identification of the "root cause" and the individuals responsible for this "criminal act," Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw expressed support for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the train crash. This decision has sparked curiosity and debate, as the CBI primarily handles criminal cases, and a high-level inquiry by the Railways had already been initiated.
Vaishnaw, who had been present at the accident site since Saturday morning, stated that a CBI probe had been recommended during a press conference in Bhubaneswar on Sunday evening. He mentioned that the accident was related to an electric point machine and electronic interlocking, and the details would be revealed in the investigation report.
Railway officials explained the functioning of the point machine and interlocking system, emphasizing their supposed error-proof and fail-safe nature. However, they did not rule out the possibility of external intervention, suggesting that someone may have tampered with the system unknowingly or intentionally.
Preliminary investigations indicated that the Coromandel Express, headed for Chennai, mistakenly entered the loop line and collided with a stationary goods train instead of proceeding on the main line near the Bahanagar Bazar station. Subsequently, the coaches of the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express overturned after crashing into the scattered coaches of the Coromandel Express on the adjacent track.
The construction of loop lines, typically around 750 meters in length, allows for smoother train operations in station areas. The Railway Board clarified that the green signal was displayed to the Coromandel Express, indicating a clear path ahead, and the train was running at 128 kmph, just below the permitted speed of 130 kmph.
The focus now turns to the electronic interlocking signaling system at the Bahanaga Bazar railway station. This modern and robust system is considered fail-safe and reliable. However, the circumstances of the accident raise questions about its performance. The signals should have been yellow or red instead of green if the train was being diverted to a different track, as per the system's logic. It is evident that the Coromandel Express unexpectedly deviated from its intended path, leading to the catastrophic collision.
Railway experts argue that such signaling failures are unlikely to occur without human intervention. While station managers or assistant station managers oversee train operations and use the system, they are not technicians and have limited control over the signaling mechanisms. The electronic interlocking system is primarily operated from the secure Relay Room, accessible only with proper authorization and the use of multiple keys held by different departments.
Despite the ongoing identification of victims and the resumption of train services on the affected section, attention now shifts to the forthcoming CBI investigation as the nation seeks answers and accountability for this devastating train accident.