TN train mishap: Trivedi absolves driver

Two-day probe to be held in Chennai

herculean task: Railway officials and police work at the scene of the train collision near Chitteri station in Arakkonam on Wednesday. ReutersAn army of men are working since the wee hours to restore at least one track for rail traffic by Thursday late evening at the accident spot, where a Vellore-bound Electrical Multiple Unit (EMU) from Chennai Beach had rammed into a near-stationary Arakkonam-Katpadi Passenger train Tuesday night.

Union Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi, who along with his junior colleague K H Muniyappa and other top officials, including Railway Board Chairman Vinay Mittal, reached the accident spot after visiting the injured at various hospitals, declined to get into the cause of the ghastly accident.  

Trivedi said the top priority was to ensure that the hurt passengers went back home safely and restore rail traffic at the  stretch, at the earliest. The Chennai Central Station has been a virtual sea of ch­aos since last night as ma­ny tr­ains bound for the West Coast destinations and tow­a­r­­ds Bangalore were cancelled.

Like the ‘black box’ in an aircraft, every detail of the pre-collision moments has been recorded in the EMU engine unit, said Trivedi. Surely, the signals and other systems were working well and the railways had a very sophisticated system, he said. Yet, why the rear train did not stop at the signal was not yet known, the minister said.  

Disclosing that the driver of the EMU had good rest before his last night’s duty, and that a breathalyser test had revealed that he was not under the influence of alcohol, Trivedi said, “We still have to go behind the human error,” assuring to look into all aspects of the accidents.

Journey towards death

 Eye-witnesses and officials said “horror struck like lightning”. Many passengers were travelling by both trains -- popular with daily wage earners -- to return home from work from neighbouring Chennai and Thiruvallur districts. But none had any inkling that the night’s trip by their favourite EMU and the other local train will be a journey to death.

The partly-charred and badly mangled EMU head motor unit, whose intrusive speed turned a killer, lay like a humbled wild elephant on one side of the track, as witnessed by Deccan Herald on Wednesday morning at the site of the accident.

The two other capsized bogies of the Arakkonam-Katpadi Passenger train that was ahead had also been lobbed aside by rescue workers in a Herculean bid to clear the lines for re-starting train services on the section.

In all, six bogies had derailed under the impact of the collision, of which three, including the EMU’s motor unit, were badly damaged. Most of the human casualties were reported from these three compartments.

While, unofficially, the death toll has been put at 15 till 3 pm on Wednesday Southern Railway officials confirmed that 10 persons, including a woman, had died and 83 others were injured. The injured are undergoing treatment at several nearby hospitals.

As many as 23 of the more seriously injured  were shifted from the Arakkonam Government Hospital here to the Rajiv Gandhi General Hospital in Chennai, official sources said.

By all accounts, the mistake prima facie appeared to be on the part of the EMU driver, who is battling for his life in Chennai. He apparently over-sped and skipped signals, which led to one of the most serious rail mishaps in this section in the last three decades.

Ministry feels Loco pilot is guilty

The Railway Ministry has almost agreed with the initial inference of Southern Railway that the Tamil Nadu accident was an error made by Loco pilot of the Chennai Beach-Vellore Cantonment Mainline Electrical Multiple Unit, reports DHNS from New Delhi.  The ministry is waiting for the report of the Sa­fety Commissioner S K Mittal, who will hold an enquiry on September 16 and 17 at Chennai.
 

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