Two months before the devastating train accident in Odisha that claimed the lives of 288 passengers and left over 900 others injured, the Railway Board had flagged the issue of signalling staff resorting to short-cuts and warned top Railway officials of the alarming situation.
Referring to five incidents where trains entered the wrong path due to short-cuts adopted by the signalling staff, the Railway Board, in a letter to General Managers of the Zonal Railways, expressed “serious concern” that despite repeated instructions, the ground situation was not improving and “signalling staff are continuing to adopt short-cuts for clearing signals without checking correspondence from site and without proper exchange of disconnection/reconnection memo, with operating staff.”
The five incidents, including two derailments, occurred in January-March 2023. On January 27, 2023, Northern Railway train no. 22454 Meerut City-Lucknow Rajya Rani Express cleared for arrival at Lucknow station entered the washing line area after cables cut by construction staff were reconnected without testing.
In another incident in Kharkopar in Central Railway zone, a train cleared for arrival on platform no. 1 derailed after wrong wiring was done in the relay room by the signalling staff.
The three other incidents were reported in Northern Railway, South Western Railway and West Central Railway zones.
“This is alarming and an issue of serious concern. The signalling gears were reconnected by Signal & Telecommunication staff without proper testing of points after blocks for switch/turnout replacement, wrong wiring during preparatory works, attending signal failures etc., Such practices reflect dilution of manual and codal provisions. Same are potential hazards to safety in train operations and need to be stopped,” R.N. Sunkar, Member (Infrastructure), Railway Board, said in the letter.
Reiterating that signal gears should be reconnected only after proper testing to ensure safety of the signalling system, he urged senior Railway officials to review the safety aspects at weekly meetings at the divisional and headquarter levels.