According to them, isolation of track is carried out when a train, be it an express or a goods train, jumps red signal and enters a prohibited track. Under this system, the station and signal personnel at a given station would have to be alert and act fast to divert the speeding train to a different track.
“The maximum that could happen in such a case is derailment of some coaches of the speeding train that would have led to injuries to some passengers, but not as big a casualty as the one on Monday at Sainthia,” one loco pilot said.
Explaining the process further, the pilot said: “The process is part of the panel interlocking system where it is mandatory to isolate the line at rear portion of the standing train when it arrives at a station. And even if a speeding train breaks the signal and hurtles on, it has little possibility of ramming the stationary train from behind.”
He, however, conceded that the entire process calls for a “very fast action and, unless one is extremely alert during a particular moment, it would be very difficult to carry out the isolation of track. The loco pilot felt that it was meaningless to blame it on the driver and assistant driver of the Uttarbanga Express. He claimed that statements given by the Sainthia signal in charge and the station master clearly revealed that this “step” was not followed.
Waiting for report
Meanwhile, sleuths probing the mishap are neither ruling out the “drugged theory” nor attaching importance to it as a final conclusion on this could be reached only after getting the autopsy and viscera reports. “We are yet to receive the postmortem report. The viscera report, which will lead us to the final conclusion on this aspect, can be available only after a week,” a senior official said.
“And, even if for arguments' sake, we accept that they were indeed drugged, how can you explain that two trains had come on the same down track? Due to the interlocking system, a driver can only control the speed of the train. People concerned outside direct it to a particular platform. Hence, when the station employees and officials saw that Uttar Banga was approaching platform 4, why didn't they direct it to some other platform, ” he said.
The official, too, wondered why the speeding train was not diverted to hit the buffer, which is there to protect trains from such accidents. “Therefore, some negligence was there on the part of people whose responsibility was to control the train from outside,” the official said.
Meanwhile, Uttarbanga Express guard Somnath Sengupta, Vananchal Express driver Md Nayeem and his assistant driver appeared on Wednesday before the statutory inquiry committee formed to probe the Monday's train disaster. However, no details are available on the proceedings.
A railway spokesman said that restoration of track that began on a war-footing was already over. Once the railway engineers and the district police gave the track “fit” certificate, a goods train was allowed to pass. Later, it was thrown open to normal traffic on Tuesday itself.
In another development, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, under a combined opposition attack for two tragic train disasters in less than two months that killed more than 200 people, criticised the CPM on Wednesday for demanding her resignation in the wake of the Sainthia train crash.
Mamata sees red
Reiterating that there has been a conspiracy to malign her and her party, she pointed out a massive party rally in the heart of Kolkata that the May 28 Gyaneshwari Express tragedy occurred just two days before the Kolkata civic elections. And the crash at Sainthia, too, was orchestrated barely two days before the July 21 rally of the Trinamool. “Investigation has been underway for both accidents. So I won’t say anything. But comrades, do you think we eat grass and have no brains to understand who is doing what,” she asked.
Claiming that she could resign her chair if people want her to do, she thundered: “But the more the CPM demands my resignation, I get more phone calls from people urging me not to fall into the CPM trap. They plead with me not to resign,” she said. “With people deserting the communists en masse, the CPM is scared and bent on creating problems for me. But no amount of conspiracy will help them. They're trying to damage the railways; they'll not get people's support and they'll suffer themselves and pay a heavy price for this deadly politics," she observed in the rally where an estimated ten lakh people thronged.