2016 train accident: Panel finds welding fault

2016 train accident: Panel finds welding fault but adds caveat: wait for the NIA sabotage probe

Representative image/Credit: Reuters Photo

Five years after a train accident in UP claimed 152 lives, a railway safety probe agency said it is not possible to call the mishap a "sabotage" till the NIA investigation is complete, even as it listed sudden mechanical failure, severe corrosion and poor welding among possible reasons for the derailment.

The derailment of 19321 DN Indore-Rajendra Nagar Express on November 20, 2016 near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh was one of the worst railway accidents.

The case was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) after doubts were raised over a possible "terror angle" in the incident.

"The accident of Train no.19321 DN (Indore-Rajendra Nagar Express) at Km-12907/8 16 between Pokhrayan Malasa Section located on Jhansi-Kanpur single line Section (Electrified) of Jhansi Division of N.C. Railway at 03.02 hours on 20.11.2016 is being investigated by NIA, New Delhi...report of their investigation has not been submitted to the CRS, Eastern Circle, Kolkata so far.

"Railway Board has also not forwarded any report of investigation by NIA to CRS, Eastern Circle, Kolkata so far. Hence, it is not possible to conclude the cause of the accident...," the report says.

The Commission of Railway Safety (CRS), which reports to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, has, however, listed the probable causes of the accident.

It says while the NIA is probing the case from the "sabotage angle", no report has so far been submitted either by the premier investigation agency or by the Railway Board regarding the findings of the NIA.

Among the probable causes, the CRS has discussed "rail fracture" -- which it itself has ruled out because "four trains have passed before this train in preceding about one hour and no abnormality/jerk/sound" was reported by any of those.

The report has indicated that one of the most probable reasons for the derailment could be a sudden mechanical failure. It says according to a metallurgical report submitted by the RDSO, Lucknow and the National Metallurgical Laboratory, Jamshedpur, the condition of the S-1 coach was very bad.

The S-2 and B-3 coaches also suffered heavy damage, the report says, adding that the S-1 and S-2 coaches took off from the track, "becoming projectile at high speed", and fell on the B-3 coach, resulting in very high casualties in these coaches.

It happened in a matter of seconds at "2:58:01 hours", which indicates that it was a "sudden derailment and capsizing of coaches but not a gradual derailment by wheel climbing", the report says.

It further points out that the S-1 coach, which had "severe corrosion, old breakage and a poor quality of welding", got worked out after the passing of the Pokhrayan station and fell down while on the run when it reached a speed of 106 kmph, and the "head stock embedded in track, causing intense obstruction to the movement of coaches behind S-1".

The accident became a high-profile case after the then railway minister Suresh Prabhu, suspecting sabotage, wrote to Rajnath Singh, who was the home minister at the time, demanding a high-level investigation into it in January, 2017.

The home ministry had then forwarded the case to the NIA to probe the sabotage angle.

Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at an election rally, had said the accident was a "cross-border conspiracy".

"The office of the CRS is an independent institutional mechanism and does not report to the Railway Board. Since the matter is still under investigation, it would not be proper to share the details.

"The railways would only be able to make any comment on the completion of a full investigation by other national authorities," a spokesperson of the national transporter said, on being asked about the CRS report.

It may be noted that during the last few years, the railways has taken extensive maintenance, technological and management measures to reduce the number of accidents of passenger trains, the spokesperson said.

"This has resulted in a historic zero passenger death due to railway accidents over the last 18 months. The railways has moved very aggressively and swiftly to ensure higher passenger safety standards all across its network," the spokesperson added.

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