Andheri derailment: Officials find fault at forged Metal used for Axle that broke

Mumbai: The derailment of a Western Railway local train, south of Andheri station on September 15, has the potential to dent two solid reputations – the Rail Wheel Factory (RWF) at Yelahanka, Bengaluru, and a top weapons manufacturing company under the defence ministry based in West Bengal’s 24 Parganas (North) district.

The broken axle of the local that derailed near Andheri on September 15
The broken axle of the local that derailed near Andheri on September 15

The RWF claims to have a ‘cent per cent’ success record when it comes to the performance of its products like axles. The defence firm is the military’s premier factory to build military hardware as well as the super-strength metal that goes into the creation of these weapons.

Railway officials told that the metal for the axle that broke during the Andheri derailment was forged there. The RWF’s reputation is also under cloud. The website of the railway’s premier wheel-and-axle plant proudly claims that “our dedication to quality is reflected in our performance that not a single product has failed on line till date since inception”.

The website further adds that the “wheels and axles manufactured at RWF meet the Association of American Railroad (AAR) and Indian Railway Standard (IRS) specifications for various railroad applications”, claims Pankaj Jain, GM/RWF.  Reiterating the manufacturing plant’s track record, Pankaj claims “it is true. no product of the RWF has ever failed in service”. He said that the axle was built in 2011 in RWF, but its metal was forged by the West Bengal firm.

On Tuesday, mechanical engineering officials of the metallurgical department of RWF will be in Mumbai, giving their views on the breaking of the axle, built by RWF, under the Indian Railway Standard R43 specifications- of coach 4003B of the train. The breaking of the axle and the subsequent caving in of the wheels of the train is now being seen as ‘the most possible’ reason for the derailment that ended up injuring several people grievously.

RWF officials will be in Mumbai to answer queries as part of the mandated inquiry into the derailment being presided by Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) Sushil Chandra. The inquiry is trying to find answers as to why the axle, built in 2011, broke though they have a life of 30 years.

Officials told that the ingredients that went into the making of the axle as well as the way it broke are factors that go way beyond the investigations into the derailment. “It is unprecedented that an axle breaks like this. Even after derailments much bigger in scale than the Andheri one, we have found the wheel-and-axle set and the bogie are completely intact,” they said.

WR suspends man who tested derailed rake

WR officials suspect breakage of axle in the fifth coach of the rake to be responsible for the derailment of seven coaches that caused suspension of services for 21 hours. Nobody had been hurt but severe damage could have happened if the driver of an oncoming train had not applied brakes.

After finding facts in derailment, WR has suspended the Chemical Metreological Superintendent (CMS), who had carried out the ultrasonic test on the rake which derailed between Andheri and Vile Parle on September 15. The suspension order was issued by the WR headquarters on Friday. “The CMS had carried out the test in the last week of June but there was nothing abnormal in the test, else the axle would have been replaced,” a source said. “The test is performed at the Parel workshop when it is brought in. A second test is performed when it is fitted to the coach.”

The faulty axle and wheel was manufactured in 2013 but was fitted onto the ill-fated rake three months ago. The Chief Workshop Manager of Railway Wheel Factory (RWF), Bengaluru, is expected to meet the commissioner of railway safety (Western Circle) Sushil Chandra in a day or two. Chandra will ascertain how the axle broke because this is very rare.