Titwala Derailment: Missing Clips near train mishap site points towards vandalism

Railway officials are also looking at whether a sudden increase in the day temperatures could have damaged the rail and caused the derailment

Titvala (TLA):  Railway officials say three possibilities could have led to the derailment of the Kasara-CST local near Titwala on Thursday, in which an HSC student died and 23 were injured. Of the injured, all of whom were hospitalized, 11 were discharged on Friday.

Vandalism and the lack of maintenance are being probed into to determine the cause of derailment of the Kasara local that claimed the life of one passenger and injured 12 others. The last five coaches of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)-bound Kasara local derailed at 2.50 pm between Titwala and Ambivli railway stations on Thursday. A commissioner of railway safety (CRS) probe is being conducted into the accident.

An initial inspection of the accident site has revealed that 40 circular clips, which fasten horizontal concrete sleepers to rails, were missing. As a result, the necessary distance between the rails was found wanting. Known as pandrol clips, the spring steel clip, containing iron and weighing around 1kg, is typically sold for Rs 20 in the black market.  Four such clips are used to fasten one sleeper, and there are about 6,000 such clips used in a kilometre-long section. It has also been found that in a section  near the accident spot, six per cent of the clips were missing.

Also the possibility is that a coupler (called Schaku) broke, the second that the track geometry changed and the third that the air springs of a coach deflated.  The coupling between the sixth and seventh coaches had broken, but this could have happened because of the impact of derailment, said an official. “But then, the track gauge (distance between rails) was not found changed, though some portion of a rail was found to have shifted. It has to be seen if the geometry changed because of derailment or vice-versa.”
On the air springs theory, an official said that spring deflation under the seventh coach could have led to an imbalance, leading to derailment. “But air springs can also get deflated by being hit by stones from ballast due to a disturbance in soil after derailment.”

An official said the incident is “one of those cases of derailment where none of the facts or hypotheses can help” and only a detailed inquiry by the commissioner of railway safety can identify the fault. “Site inspection and questioning of the train’s crew has not helped us identify the fault.”

A senior railway official said, “It is suspected that drug addicts or vandals have taken them out and sold it.”

The distance between two rails close to the accident spot was found to be less at the curvature. While it is necessary to maintain a distance of 1,676 mm, it was found ranging between 1,667 and 1,672 mm. The increase in the distance between the rails could have caused the wheels to jolt and derail, say officials. The missing clips have raised concerns on the maintenance of tracks in the section.

Railway officials are also looking at whether a sudden increase in the day temperatures could have damaged the rail and caused the
derailment.

“A sudden and vast increase in night and day temperature can stress rails. This can lead to rail fractures and in worse cases even derailment,” said another senior railway officer.

According to railway officials, derailment of the train caused the coaches to uncouple as the distance between the two sets of coaches was found more than that observed under ordinary uncoupling cases.

Normally, uncoupling leads to a sudden drop in the air pressure and application of emergency brakes, which makes a 12-car train at 100 kmph stop within 500 m, said a senior railway officer.

On Thursday, the Kasara fast was travelling at 84 kmph when the accident took place. Officials said unless the train derailed, the front six coaches could not have moved ahead by 366 m. If the uncoupling had taken place earlier, the front coaches would have stopped much before, said an officer.

On February 17, five coaches of a 12-car train uncoupled, while it was heading to Kalyan. The distance between the two sets of uncoupled coaches was found to be only five metres.

Meanwhile, the family of Wasind resident Kiran Gondivale (18), who has leg injuries, has refused to take the compensation of Rs 5,000 offered by Central Railway. “My son dreamt of becoming a dancer and was taking classes. The money offered by the railways is too little to cover medical expenses,” said his father Vishnu.

Also, the family of the deceased, Dhaval Lodaya, conducted his last rites in Ghatkopar. The family has blamed the railways for not providing medical help in time to save Dhaval’s life.

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