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Bengal train tragedy: Signal failed 3hrs before crash but NFR authorities wasn’t informed of it | Kolkata News – Times of India

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KOLKATA: Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) authorities never received an official communication from the New Jalpaiguri control room about an automated signalling failure necessitating a switch to manual authorisation of rail traffic on the stretch between Rangapani and Chattar Hat stations since 5.50am last Monday, nearly three hours before 10 people were killed in a collision involving a freight train and Kanchanjungha Express.It wasn’t until Tuesday that a joint observation report on the crash put the glitch on record, mentioning that all automated signals along the down line had stopped working at 5.50am the previous day.Quoting railway officials, TOI reported Wednesday that the deceased loco pilot of the freight train would have needed to stop at red lights on that stretch and then proceed cautiously – at 10-15kmph – had the automated signals been functioning. He received a paper line-clear ticket instead, or T/A 912, that allowed the freight train to cross Rangapani without reducing speed, after which it rear-ended Kanchanjungha Express.”T/A 912 is issued only when there is a signal block, or a stretch with faulty signals between stations that are identified. Only one train is allowed to operate on each line at a time,” a railway official said. “Last Monday, this crucial safety rule, followed in all rail divisions with automated signalling, was flouted between Rangapani and Chattar Hat. Two trains were allowed to proceed on the same line just 15 minutes apart, leading to the accident.” A joint observation report, too, contains a dissenting note regarding the preliminary assumption that the accident occurred due to the freight train loco pilot’s failure to adhere to the guidelines on crossing automated signals and allegedly exceeding speed limits.Citing standard operating procedure, multiple officials said whenever there is a signal failure and T/A 912 is issued, no speed limit is imposed on a loco pilot. When there is a prolonged signal failure, like on Monday, a separate written authorisation – form T/D 912 – is to be issued, limiting the speed of trains to 25kmph. What possibly compounded matters was the lack of proper training to railway staff on the section that had transitioned to automated signalling just seven months ago, officials said. “This is probably why the actions of the stationmaster and loco pilot of Kanchanjungha Express were in variance with that of the goods train loco pilot. While the latter was going by the book, the stationmaster and the loco pilot of Kanchanjungha Express were operating in signalling failure mode, but following rules applicable when signals are in operation,” said another railway official.


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