बंगलोर Bangalore (SBC): The statutory enquiry into the derailment of the Bangalore-Ernakulam Inter-City Express train near Anekal on February 13, which claimed nine lives, started on Tuesday at the Divisional Railway Manager’s office here.
Commissioner of Railway Safety, Satish Kumar Mittal, along with an observer and other senior officials, examined 22 staff members of the South Western Railway on day one of the two-day enquiry.
The enquiry started at around 10 am and went on till 6.15 pm. Mittal said the statements of the 22 staffers, including the loco pilot of the train, A T Fernandes, the Anekal Station Master, the Assistant Station Master and gangmen, were recorded.
“We have examined the staff. Some may have to be examined again on Wednesday. We will gather all evidences and submit a preliminary report within one month. Thereafter, a final report will be prepared. The maximum time for submitting the report is six months. We have to analyse the entire evidence before arriving at a conclusion,” Mittal said.
On Tuesday, no member of the public turned up to give evidence. “The public should come forward and help us if they have any information about the accident. We are a statutory body and if anyone has any information, it will be of great help for the enquiry,” Mittal said.
Divisional Railway Manager A K Agrawal and Chief Safety Officer of South Western Railway, M K Vikrant, the observer for the enquiry, were present.
The office-bearers of the All India Loco Running Staff Association submitted a memorandum to Mittal urging for a fair enquiry into the accident. The association stated that a rail breakage was reported just a day before the February 13 incident.
“Loco pilot Durgesh Kumar C had reported the rail breakage – a crack in the welding joints which sometimes causes derailment. After maintenance, the track was given a fit-to-run clearance at a permitted speed of 80 kmph.
A glance through the signal and track defect register will give a clear idea of the bleak future of the Indian Railways,” General Secretary C Sunish said.
The association said the administration was harassing the loco crew alone by subjecting them to repeated medical examinations and questioning them as if they were criminals. “The loco pilots are always blamed and victimised after every derailment, while no one takes responsibility for the prevailing poor system.
For every accident, the railway administration tries to blame the loco pilot and they have succeeded in the incident involving 12864 Express (Yesvantpur-Howrah) at Kuppam in Andhra Pradesh on June 3, 2014.
“To cover up the system failure, a loco pilot was removed from service. The loco pilot in this incident has an unblemished service record and has never been involved in any derailment earlier. He has experienced ballast crushing, which is interpreted as boulders, and the administration is forcing him to find boulders,” the association claimed.
Is speed limit the angle to probe? A highly-placed source in Railways says lower speed limit after “track fault” could have averted tragedy
Even as S.K. Mittal, Commissioner of Railway Safety, Southern Circle on Tuesday began an enquiry into the accident of the Bengaluru-Ernakulam Intercity Express, a highly-placed source in the Railways pointed out that a “reduced speed limit” in the sector could have made the stretch safer and possibly “averted” the tragedy.
The limit for loco pilots on the Anekal-Hosur stretch, a distance of 13 km, is 80 kilometres per hour (kmph).
While the ill-fated train was moving well within the specified speed limit, the source said, “The stipulated limit should have been much slower, especially after a track fault was reported by another loco pilot the day before the accident.”
The source pointed out that a Loco Pilot Mr.C.Durgesh Kumar had earlier identified a track fault, very close to the accident spot, and reported the same to the officials concerned. Following this, the fault was fixed and a “fit to run” instruction was issued. However, it may have helped if the “speed limit had been lowered and the track kept under observation”.
Anil Agarwal, Divisional Railway Manager, South Western Railway, Bangalore, said, “I do not want to comment on it. We can’t say anything until the cause of the accident is ascertained”.
While S.K. Mittal, Commissioner of Railway Safety, Southern Circle, who is heading the probe, refused to comment on the reasons he said 22 persons were examined on the first day of the enquiry.
He also added that “No one from the public appeared despite. Public should come forward to help us.” He said that a preliminary report, based on the details collected, would be sent to the Railway Board in a month’s time followed by a detailed report after six months.
Railways Await Loco Pilot’s Blood Report
Railway officials are yet to receive the blood test report of the loco pilot who was driving the Bengaluru-Ernakulam Intercity Express when it derailed near Anekal on Friday. A senior railway official told that preliminary investigations had revealed that there was no mistake on the part of the loco pilot. “Doctors who examined him just after the incident had found nothing wrong. However, we are waiting for his blood report to ascertain whether he was under the influence of alcohol or any other drugs while on duty,” he said.
“They can reveal more about the incident and whether they found any suspicious movement around the track or locality. Those desiring to give evidence may do so at the above place on the dates of the enquiry or may write to the Commissioner of Railway Safety, No, 7, Seshadri Road, Gandhi Nagar, Bengaluru – 560009 or fax 080 22260650,” the senior railway official said.
Mittal will submit a preliminary report on the accident within one month of conclusion of the initial inquiry, in line with Railway Board guidelines. On Monday, Mittal visited the disaster site to get a first hand understanding of the derailment.
“We are also verifying details of the families of the deceased to hand over compensation cheques and have requested them to submit proper details about the beneficiaries,” the officer said.