Kanchanjungha Express accident: Signal had been defective since 5.50 am, says a railway source

The automatic signalling system between Ranipatra Railway Station and Chattar Hat Junction in West Bengal, where a goods train hit Sealdah Kanchanjungha Express in the rear, was defective since 5.50 in the morning, according to a railway source.
Kanchanjungha Express accident, near Ranipatra Railway station
Kanchanjungha Express accident, near Ranipatra Railway station

New Delhi | The automatic signalling system between Ranipatra Railway Station and Chattar Hat Junction in West Bengal, where a goods train hit Sealdah Kanchanjungha Express in the rear, was defective since 5.50 in the morning, according to a railway source.

"Train No 13174 (Sealdah Kanchanjungha Express) departed Rangapani station at 8:27 am and stopped between Ranipatra railway station and Chattar Hat due to automatic signalling failure from 5:50 am," the source told PTI.

According to another railway official, when the automatic signalling system fails, the station master issues a written authority called TA 912, which authorises the driver to cross all red signals in the section because of the defect.

"The station master of Ranipatra had issued TA 912 to Train No 1374 (Sealdah Kanchanjungha Express)," the source said.

He added, "Around the same time, a goods train, GFCJ, departed Rangapani at 8:42 am and hit 13174 in the rear portion resulting from the derailment of the guard's coach, two parcel coaches and a general seating coach." The Railway Board in its initial statement said that the driver of the goods train violated the signal. It pegged the overall death toll at five. However, some local officials said it could be as high as 15.

Sources said that an investigation alone can establish whether the goods train was also given TA 912 to cross defective signals at speed or if it was the loco pilot, who violated the defective signal norm.

If it is the latter, the driver was supposed to stop the train for one minute at each defective signal and move on with 10 kmph speed.

The loco pilot's body has questioned the Railways' statement that the driver violated the red signal.

"It is highly objectionable to announce the dear loco pilot responsible when he is dead and CRS inquiry pending," Sanjay Pandhi, the working president of the Indian Railway Loco Runningmen Organisation (IRLRO), said.

According to Railway Board Chairperson Jaya Varma Sinha, the collision happened because a goods train disregarded the signal and hit the Kanchanjungha Express, which was on way to Sealdah from Agartala.

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