Train crashes into truck

11-17-2005

by Alok Patel

Train crashes into truck at Butibori LC at Nagpur - Details of exactly what happened.

17 November 2005. 8.15 PM

This is an account of what happened in the accident which could have ended up taking a dozen lives that day. Details are somewhat sketchy but here goes:

Everything was hunky dory as a light goods train (WAG5 24065 JHS in charge, 1600 tonne load) started out of Nagpur and headed towards Badnera. Nothing seemed out of place as the driver moved his train out of the city, crossed Khapri and Gumgaon. Butibori was next. A Level Crossing protecting the National Highway Level Crossing near Butibori Industrial Estate was approaching. The Level Crossing is one of the most congested crossings in the city. NHAI has been dragging its feet over constructing a ROB there for the last 8-10 years.

Anyway, the Gate Distant was at green. However, it isn't possible to see the gate or its signal at that spot since they are on the other end of a tight curve. But seeing a green distant, the driver knew there was no problem and decided to go ahead. The driver passed distant at green and continued at 75 kph. A train passed him from the other side.

As the driver saw the gate signal come into view from 400 metres away, he was stunned to see the the red aspect lit and the gate open! He slammed on the emergency brakes. In the meantime, look at what was crossing the gate - a couple of Tata Sumos, a State Transport bus full of passengers and several bikes and scooters! As people saw the train careening around the bend and approaching the gate, panic hit at the gate as people scrambled to safety.

On the other hand, a truck that had just begun to cross the track was now standing right in the train's path. The driver of the truck and cleaner knew they wouldn't make it and they bailed out. However, the goats in the payload area of the truck didn't know enough to do the same thing. The loco driver knew the train wouldn't stop in time and braced himself for the crash. Although the train had slowed down considerably, the impact was massive.

The loco hit the truck broadside at around 40 KPH. The impact whirled the truck around 180 degrees as casually as it would a piece of paper. The goats inside were killed immediately. The momentum of the train carried it forward for another 50 metres before it stopped.

The valiant RPF staffer on duty at the gate showed true courage and immediately stripped himself of the RPF uniform to remove any traces of being associated with IR. The shaken road users were fuming and someone was going to be a victim of that fury if they decided to vent their ire at IR. Luckily, nothing happened except for a crowd forming to see what happened.

But the story isn't over yet. The other track was fouled due to the accident. And Butibori station master had given the all clear section to the Kerala Express to head to Nagpur. It would approach the gate at 100 kph! The driver realised this and immediately called the SM on the walkie talkie. The SM scrambled to stop the Kerala Express at Butibori starter.

Here's why this happened. This busy LC, allowing thousands of vehicles to pass through everyday, is not interlocked! The gateman had just let a train towards Nagpur pass. He forgot that the goods train from the Nagpur side was coming too! With the train to Nagpur having gone, he opened the gate and people rushed to cross from both sides. The driver of the WAG5 passed the distant at green and it must've been after this that the gate was opened. So the driver encountered the red gate signal completely unprepared.

The light, single pipe air braked BOXN goods rake took 470 metres to go from 73 kph to a dead stop. This was gleaned from the data logger charts at Hyderabad and a report sent for the ensuing enquiry at Nagpur.

The gate wasn't interlocked. So it could be easily opened and closed at the whims of the gateman. I think that's a stupid move when Butibori station is just a km or two away. An interlocked gate couldn't be opened without the train passing once closed. There are other rumours flying about but I won't mention them since I can't get confirmation yet. This raises several safety issues which IR MUST look into.

Whoever the driver was, he was a lucky fellow for not overspeeding to even 76 kph. Otherwise whatever else the problem may have been, the driver would have been lynched by senior IR officials first.

Despite all this, I am just thankful that no one died in the accident. I just pray that the same could be said of all other accidents on IR.

Material provided by Alok Patel, Copyright © 2005.
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