- Human error may have caused the train accident that killed 20
- It now appears some repair work on the tracks was in progress
- Railways minister Suresh Prabhu sought to fix responsibility quickly
"Some maintenance work was going on, which might have caused the derailment of Utkal Express," said Mohd Jamshed, Member Traffic, Railway Board, at a press conference today.
The Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express was going at 100 km per hour when it derailed last evening in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh. Four of the coaches went off the track. One of the coaches was even catapulted across another and hit some buildings beside the tracks.
Mr Jamshed, who had visited the accident spot, said he had seen maintenance tools on the tracks. "There is an audio clip of a conversation that we will probe. Also, when we did a site inspection, we saw some equipment of the railways used for track repair present there," he said.
Sources in the railways' engineering division said they had warned the Khatauli station authorities of the ongoing repair work. No train was meant to pass on the tracks for 20 minutes and the station authorities were informed, they said, adding two trains had even slowed down on the stretch before the repair started. But Rajinder Singh, Station Superintendent, Khatauli told NDTV, "We had no knowledge of technical problems".
Railways minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered that responsibility be fixed by the end of the day on basis of "prima facie" evidence. But railway officials said it could be another day or two before they reach a conclusion.
Rajiv Kumar Kulshreshtha, the general manager of the Northern Railways, said the investigation will begin after the restoration work on the tracks. "We will talk to all those who were present at station, the engineering staff. There will be an inquiry by the commissioner of railway safety and the truth will come out," he added.