CBI Investigates Odisha’s Balasore Train Tragedy: In-depth Probe to Uncover Causes and Identify Responsible Parties
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the tragic incident that occurred in Balasore, Odisha, resulting in the loss of 275 lives and approximately 1,000 injuries. This move holds great significance as sources indicate that only a meticulous inquiry by a top agency can ascertain any potential criminal tampering with the point machine or the electronic interlocking system. It will also determine if the train veered off its intended track due to reconfiguration or a signaling error.
The CBI inquiry aims to provide answers to all inquiries regarding this devastating accident, which stands as the deadliest in the country over the past two decades. Additionally, the Commissioner of Railway Safety’s ongoing investigation will continue alongside the CBI probe, with a report expected within two weeks.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw’s statement regarding the accident:
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, speaking on national broadcaster Doordarshan, stated that the “root cause” of the accident and the individuals responsible for it have been identified. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also emphasised that strict action will be taken against those found guilty.
According to Mr. Vaishnaw, a potential cause of the tragedy could be a change in the track configuration, stating that “whoever has done this will not be spared.” Railway experts stress the significance of the electric point machine, a crucial component for railway signaling, responsible for locking point switches and ensuring train safety.
SK Sinha, founder of L2M Rail, a startup dedicated to enhancing railway industry safety and sustainability, explained that electronic interlocking enables the establishment of a train route by the station in-charge. Once a route is set and locked, it remains unchanged until the train completes its movement along the designated path. Signals indicating green lights signify the reserved route for the train. Detailed records of all events are available for analysis after the fact. Mr. Sinha expressed confidence that officials would study the data logs to identify the cause of the accident. He emphasised that the electronic interlocking systems employed by Indian Railways adhere to the highest safety standards and are unlikely to fail on their own.
Probable factors causing the accident:
Track failure is often a prominent factor in train derailments, with extreme temperatures and welding failures being potential causes. However, deliberate damage to tracks by anti-social elements has been a major concern. Manual inspections are conducted twice daily, but the development of 24/7 track monitoring systems capable of reporting abnormalities in real-time is both feasible and desirable, according to Mr. Sinha.
Nalinaksh S Vyas, a professor at IIT-Kanpur’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and former head of the Technology Mission for Indian Railways, suspects a systems failure. He suggests that a lack of synchronisation between the electronic and mechanical systems may have occurred. Mr. Vyas explains that when changing from the main line to the loop line or vice versa, the point needs to shift position mechanically while signaling simultaneously. It is possible that the signal appeared green while the point remained inclined or partially inclined. Mr. Vyas affirms the validity of investigating this issue further.
Preliminary findings indicate that the ongoing investigation is headed in the right direction, according to Mr. Vyas. The Commissioner of Railway Safety, South Eastern Railway, is already conducting an inquiry into the matter. The investigation will also explore potential failures in the track management system, signaling malfunctions, and other factors such as human error, weather conditions, and communication failures.
Jaya Verma Sinha, a Railway Board Member responsible for Operations and Business Development, stated that the individuals responsible have been identified, and there was no flaw in the logic of the signal. However, she suspects that there may have been interference with the signaling system, leaving no possibilities ruled out.
Importance of Sensorisation and Anti-Collision Systems for Track Safety
Prof. Vyas stresses the need for complete sensorisation of the Railways’ extensive 40,000-Km track network to ensure seamless communication. He also advocates for the implementation of anti-collision systems like Kavach across all railway lines. Prof. Vyas suggests that the certification, adoption, and facilitation of such technologies, which impact millions of lives, should be handled at the highest level rather than relying solely on a few individuals or organisations. He emphasises the urgency of making these decisions promptly.
While Kavach serves as an effective anti-collision system to prevent disasters caused by human error, Prof. Sinha acknowledges its limitations in preventing accidents resulting from system failures. However, he suggests developing overlay systems that utilise the Kavach platform to address other potential accident scenarios.
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Train Collision : Accident or Sabotage? Ex-chief engineer(East Central Railway) Alok Kumar Verma throws light on exactly what happened on that fateful night #NewsTrack with @RahulKanwal: https://t.co/0UtBmi7ZFi #OdishaTrainAccident #TrainAccident pic.twitter.com/UxaAUc9qIS
— IndiaToday (@IndiaToday) June 5, 2023
Alok Kumar Verma, a former Railways engineer and retired IRSE official, highlights the importance of meticulous inspections, maintenance, and rigorous train operations as fundamental measures for safety.