ACCIDENT WATCH: At 125kmph, Rajdhani engine derails – lucky no deaths this time. Another example of maintenance apathy and neglect, Bengal’s cultural trait, too busy with political power to focus on the job at hand ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH BUREAU
Aug. 30: A key braking device of the Howrah-bound Rajdhani Express got unhinged when it was travelling at 125kmph this morning, leading to the derailment of the engine and a blot on the maintenance of the showpiece train.
The drivers slammed the emergency brake about 27km from Howrah, saving more than 500 passengers.
Most of them felt a massive jerk at 9.25am but did not realise until stepping out of the train, outside Baruipara station in Eastern Railway’s Howrah-Burdwan cord line, how close they were to disaster.
“Apparently, a strip (in the braking device) of the locomotive got unhinged, affected the tracks and caused the derailment,” said Eastern Railway general manager V.N. Tripathy.
A four-member inquiry committee comprising heads of operations, electrical and mechanical engineering and safety will start a probe from tomorrow.
One of the tread brake units (TBU), a component of the braking device of a train, which consists of a block of friction material hung from a lever and being pressed against the wheel tread, came off the hinge and brushed against the tracks. “The TBU of the second left wheel came off and brushed the track for more than a kilometre. Due to this several parts of the track were broken and developed cracks. More than 300 Pandrol clips, which affix the rails with tracks, were torn off,” a senior railway official said.
According to sources, the train was running at a speed of more than 120kmph on the middle track when the TBU unhinged. After brushing for a kilometre, it got stuck at a point where two tracks converge and the wheels got derailed.
“The locomotive and the train underwent a safety check at Dhanbad but no fault could be detected,” a railway official said.
The drivers, E.P. Toppo and M.P. Singh, pressed the emergency brakes in the nick of time to avert a major mishap.
“There was a huge noise from beneath the engine. Then there was a jerk and I knew that one of the wheels were getting derailed and so I pressed the emergency break,” Singh said.
Majid Khan, a gangman was working on another track. “I saw thick smoke emanating from the engine and stones ricocheting. To alert the driver I showed a red flag and saw the engine getting derailed,” said Khan.
The loud noise and smoke triggered panic among passengers and many of them jumped off the train after it stopped. Nandini Dasgupta, a graphic designing student from Tollygunge, was returning home for a vacation. “I was reading a book when suddenly there was a noise and the train jerked to a stop. This is the first time I was travelling alone and my mother had warned me of all the recent accidents and terror attacks involving the railways. I was too scared and immediately called my mother, who got panicked and informed my father,” said Nandini who studies in Delhi.
Rajkumar Kukreja, a resident of Delhi said: “I was sleeping when suddenly the train started to shake and screeched to a halt. I almost fell from my berth. I thought it was a terror attack and was terrified to even move out.” The man in his early forties was visiting his relatives in Calcutta.
The railways sent an empty local train to bring the stranded passengers back to Calcutta. The train reached Howrah at 12.40pm. A large number of Pandrol clips were lying beside the track after the mishap. The track was broken at several parts with more than metre gap at some places.