Railway Minister points to signal fault in Odisha train accident

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The devastating triple-train collision that claimed the lives of 295 passengers in Odisha’s Balasore district on June 2 resulted from failures in the alteration of the signalling circuit, according to Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw. The incident, which also seriously injured 176 others, occurred during the replacement of an electric lifting barrier at a level-crossing gate. The details, revealed during a parliamentary session on Friday, were based on the Commissioner of Railway Safety’s investigation.

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The accident involved the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express ramming into a stationary goods train, leading to its coaches derailing onto an adjacent track and colliding with the oncoming Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast train. The accident ranks among the deadliest in India’s recent history.

Signalling failure behind Odisha's deadly triple-train accident, says Railway Minister

Signalling failure behind Odisha’s deadly triple-train accident, says Railway Minister. Photo courtesy of Swattik Jana/Wikimedia Commons.

Over the past five years, the railways have experienced 13 instances of signalling failure, but none attributed to defects in the interlocking signal system, Ashwini Vaishnaw added. The Minister also shared that 41 victims remain unidentified from the total fatalities. As of July 18, 254 of the deceased have been identified. The unidentified bodies are being preserved at AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, with DNA samples retained for analysis at CFSL, New Delhi.

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In addressing the ex-gratia compensation, Ashwini Vaishnaw noted that Rs 10 lakh each has been paid to the deceased’s next of kin, Rs 2 lakh each to those grievously injured, and Rs 50,000 each to those with minor injuries. To date, Rs 29.49 crores has been disbursed until July 16.

Earlier this month, the Central Bureau of Investigation made its first arrests related to the accident, detaining three railway personnel. Senior Section Engineer Arun Kumar Mahanta, Section Engineer Mohammed Amir Khan, and Technician Pappu Kumar, all assigned to Balasore district, face charges under IPC sections 304 and 201.

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