In a tragic incident on Friday in Odisha’s Balasore district that has claimed 288 lives so far, the technical glitch in the point machine and electronic interlocking system has been identified as a contributing factor. Other than this, the absence of the anti-collision system KAVACH was also brought to light as experts suggest, the engine involved in the Balasore accident could have halted 400 meters earlier if equipped with the armour system.
Faulty Electronic Interlocking System Identified
Railway Minister Ashwani Vaishnav confirmed that the fatal accident was caused by a malfunction in the electronic interlocking system. This safety measure is designed to prevent conflicting movements between trains. The exact nature of the change that occurred during electronic interlocking, leading to the accident, is still under investigation.
The minister assured reporters that those responsible for the incident would be held accountable once the investigation is complete.
Failure to Implement Armour System
Out of the 13,215 rail engines operating in the country, only 65 are equipped with an armour system. Shockingly, this means that 18 out of 19 railway zones in India lack this crucial safety feature. The Indian Railways had previously announced plans to install safety shields on engines to prevent accidents, but the progress has been slow, and implementation has not yet begun in any zone except the Secunderabad zone.
Delay in Implementing Safety Measures
Despite the plans to equip locomotives with the KAVACH armour system, the process has not yet commenced in any railway zone except the Secunderabad zone. Out of the 13,215 electric locomotives in the country, only 65 have been outfitted with the armour system. This device, which is installed on both the engine and tracks, activates when two trains or engines enter its range, initiating automatic braking to prevent collisions. Indian Railways aims to start implementing the armour system on 5,000 route kilometres across the country during the current financial year.
Denial of Connection to Anti-Collision System
Minister Vaishnav refuted claims that the accident could have been prevented with the anti-collision system called "Kavach." He dismissed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's allegations and clarified that the root cause of the accident was related to the point machine and electronic interlocking system, not the Kavach device. The ongoing investigation will reveal further details about the incident and identify those responsible.
Selective Implementation of Kavach Devices
Despite the challenges in implementing safety measures, the South Central Railway has made progress in installing Kavach devices. These devices have been deployed on 1,098 route kilometres and 65 locomotives in ongoing projects.
Currently, the South Central Railway is focusing on implementing Kavach devices on routes such as Bidar Parli Vaijnath - Parbhani and Manmad Parbhani - Nanded - Secunderabad - Gadwal Dhone - Guntakal sections, covering approximately 1,200 route kilometres.
The tragic Balasore accident has brought attention to the lack of an armour system in Indian Railways, which according to many experts, could have prevented such incidents. Recent reports suggest that the delay in implementing this crucial safety measure, coupled with a faulty electronic interlocking system, contributed to the unfortunate loss of lives. However, the full picture might only be visible once the final investigation report comes out. As investigations continue, it is imperative for Indian Railways to expedite the implementation of safety measures across all zones to ensure the well-being of passengers and prevent future accidents.