A Study of Major Accidents on IR in 2004-2005

This is taken from a presentation that was made by the author at the first IRFCA Convention at Pune on February 26, 2006.

Introduction

  • 2004 and 2005 were not particularly bad years for railway accidents.
  • But they did see a wide variety of accidents which provide a good overview of what can go wrong in railway safety.
  • All accidents in these years which have resulted in 10 or more deaths have been considered.
  • Sources of information: The primary source of information is media reports.
  • Reports of the Commissioner of Railway Safety have been taken into account where available.
  • The figures for casualties sometimes vary widely in different reports, so the most reliable figures have been taken.

List of accidents

  • Jun 16, 2004: 14 killed, 62 injured in derailment of 2620 Up Mangalore-Kurla Matsyagandha Express between Karanjadi and Veer, on Ratnagiri-Roha section
  • Nov 28, 2004: 12 killed, 1 injured as they were run over by 6093 Dn Chennai-Lucknow Express at Sukhi Siwania on Bhopal-Bina section
  • Dec 14, 2004: 38 killed, 200 injured in head-on collision between 9112 Dn Jammu Tawi-Ahmedabad Express and 1 JMP UP Jalandhar City-Pathankot DMU between Chak Kalan and Bhangala on Pathankot-Jalandhar City section.
  • Feb 3, 2005: 55 killed, 14 injured as Ramtek-Itwari passenger collided with tractor-trailer at unmanned crossing between Dumri Khurd and Kanhan on Ramtek-Kanhan section
  • Apr 21, 2005: 18 killed, 144 injured as 9168 Up Varanasi-Ahmedabad Sabarmati Express collided with rear of stationary Up JNPT-bound container goods train at Samlaya on Godhra-Vadodara section.
  • Jul 28, 2005: 12 killed, 60 injured in bomb explosion on 2391 Up Rajgir-New Delhi Shramjeevi Express between Harpalganj and Koiripur on Zafarabad-Sultanpur section
  • Oct 3, 2005: 12 killed, 37 injured as 1108 Dn Varanasi-Gwalior Bundelkhand Express ran into dead end at Datia on Jhansi-Gwalior section.
  • Oct 29, 2005: 115 killed, 91 injured as 415 Dn Repalle-Secunderabad Passenger derailed in floods between Ramnapet and Valigonda on Nalgonda-Secunderabad section.

Derailment of the Matsyagandha Express

  • This accident occurred on Jun 16, 2004.
  • The train derailed on a bridge over a ravine after running into boulders which had fallen on the track from the top of a cutting.
  • Netting had been put on 'vulnerable' cuttings all along the Konkan Railway following a rock fall which caused a major accident in 2003. This was done for all cuttings which were over 10m high. At this location netting was not provided as the cutting was only 8m high.

Runover accident at Sukhi Siwania

  • This occurred on Nov 28, 2004.
  • Clearly the fault of the passengers. A fight broke out in a passenger train (possibly over eve-teasing) which spilled over to the tracks. No one noticed the oncoming express.

Collision between Jammu Tawi - Ahmedabad Exp. and a DMU

  • This was a head-on collision between the Jammu Tawi-Ahmedabad Express and a DMU.
  • Occurred on Dec 14, 2004
  • This one was clearly the fault of station staff.
  • Block working was disrupted as communication wires were cut in the course of civil works for doubling.
  • Hence paper ticket working was being followed. The ASMs of the two block stations (Mirthal and Bhangala) were supposed to be in touch by wireless and control movements in the block, using the private number system. But somehow they allowed both trains into the block.
  • Both ASMs absconded but surrendered after a few days. Cases of culpable homicide were registered against them.

Collision of passenger train with tractor

  • Collision of passenger train with tractor-trailer near Nagpur
  • Occurred on Feb 3, 2005
  • Tractor driver blamed for crossing the track while train was approaching. It got stuck on the tracks.
  • Most casualties were women and children in a wedding party. The bride and groom were in another vehicle. The driver survived.

Collision of Sabarmati Exp. with goods train

  • This accident involved the collision of the Sabarmati Express with the rear of a goods train
  • Occurred on Apr 21, 2005
  • Clearly the fault of station staff (especially signalling staff) at Samalaya.
  • Goods was halted on loop line while Express was to run through on the main line.
  • Due to repair works, interlocking was not working properly. Apparently proper briefing was not done from the previous shift.
  • When the cabinman of Samlaya 'B' cabin tried to set the points for the Express to run on the main line, the lever did not work.
  • He sent his assistant to the tracks to set the points manually. For some reason this was not done.
  • Engine crew of Express were killed, although the guard of the goods train survived.
  • Several railway staff members were suspended, including the signal cabin crew.

Bomb explosion on Shramjeevi Express

  • The explosion on the Shramjeevi Express occurred on Jul 28, 2005
  • Apparently a time bomb was planted in a briefcase by a passenger who got down.
  • It is still unclear who was behind this.

Bundelkhand Express

  • Accident involving the Bundelkhand Express at Datia
  • Occurred on Oct 3, 2005
  • The Express was apparently being hauled by a diesel loco followed by a dead electric loco (although this is not mentioned clearly in the reports)
  • It was diverted to the loop line after the driver reported brake failure. This seems to have been the correct decision as otherwise it would have run onto a very busy route.
  • Some victims were standing by the track when the derailed coaches fell on them.
  • The Express pilot was killed. The assistant pilot was apparently not in the loco at the time of the accident, but was traveling in one of the coaches. He and the guard were suspended.

Derailment of Delta Fast Passenger

  • Derailment of the 'Delta Fast Passenger' in flood conditions
  • Occurred on Oct 29, 2005.
  • This train has an unofficial name ('Delta Fast Passenger') which is not given in the timetable.
  • The most serious accident in the period under consideration.
  • Some 200 m of the approaches to a 6m culvert were washed away, leaving the rails dangling.
  • Abnormally high rainfall caused a breach in an irrigation tank, which caused heavy flooding.
  • However, other trains had passed 2 hours before.
  • Gangman was reported to have been washed away, so the floods were not reported.
  • The line was built recently (ca. 1990) and thus should have been constructed as per the latest specifications.
  • However it was stated that the rainfall statistics used in designing culverts etc. did not indicate that such a heavy downpour could occur.
  • Local authorities were blamed for not informing railways of the floods. They replied that floods had occurred suddenly in the middle of the night.
  • However they also complained about the 'new' system of village administration, with less importance given to local people, was not conducive to efficiency.
  • Loco pilot died while assistant survived.
  • Final verdict: Accident caused due to structural failure of tank and culvert.

Conclusions

  • Although the incidence of railway accidents may have gone down over the past few years, there is certainly room for improvement.
  • Some accidents are the fault of railway staff, but a significant number are caused by sabotage or negligence of others. In some cases (like the Delta FP accident) natural calamities may occur rapidly without giving time to react.
  • Failure of railway staff can involve mistakes by loco pilots, as well as mistakes by signalling staff, other operating staff and those involved in maintenance of tracks, locomotives and coaches.
Material provided by Ajai Banerji, Copyright © 2006.
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