The steel poles called portal holding the overhead equipment (OHE) cables and mini garden along the tracks next to Matunga station saved the coaches from toppling. Three coaches of Puducherry Express were rammed at a slow speed by the engine of Gadag Express on Friday night. While the restoration works continued, Mumbaikars travelling on Main line of Central Railway had to face tough time on Saturday, owing to crowded platforms and congested local trains. All this happened on the day when the Indian Railways celebrated 169 years anniversary.
Soon after the accident at 9.45pm on Friday, the three coaches dangerously tilted and got stuck between the OHE portal which was holding them. The fence of the mini-garden too became a support thus prevented these three coaches from turning-turtle completely. Sources said that when they came at the site, the OHE pole was holding these coaches and was partially resting on the garden as well.
“This support proved essential as the OHE portal took the weight of the collision. Thankfully, the portal got stuck between the vestibule of two coaches and not in-between which otherwise would been risky for passengers inside. Had it not been for this sturdy pole the coaches could have tilted fully due to the impact of the collision,” said a CR official.
After disconnecting the power supply, work of restoring the derailed coaches was taken up, once all the passengers were rescued. High powered jacks were brought to raise the derailed coaches one by one. Until that time the OHE pole continued to hold it, although the power supply was switched off.
Through the night, the workers and railway officials were busy cutting the OHE pole, after restoring the derailed coaches. Finally on Saturday morning the OHE poles were cut and kept on the sides, workers were also filling the trench inside the mini garden for filling the loosened soil.
“We have ordered an enquiry into this incident,” said Anil Kumar Lahoti, General Manager, Central Railway.
Senior officials said that there are few indicators behind the possible reason behind this incident wherein primarily the loco-pilot and assistant loco-pilot of Gadag Express for some reason didn’t halt before the red signal and allowed Puducherry Express to rightfully pass. They term this as Signal Passing At Danger where driver misses the red stop signal.
“This was a long hood diesel locomotive wherein the seating arrangement of loco pilot and assistant loco pilot inside is at the rear end of the engine. So the chances of visibility and gauging the distance at times could be an issue. However all these aspects will come forth in the enquiry,” said another CR official.
There is something called short hood engine as well where the seating arrangement for drivers is at the front. Sources said that after this accident, notices were pasted inside Driver’s Lobby to be careful while maneuvering these long hood locomotives.
Meanwhile on Saturday, at 12.15pm, the three derailed coaches were removed was first moved using an engine. However one of the wheels was stuck. Finally at 12.40pm, the issue was resolved and then it was taken to Dadar Terminus. Later an inspection coach was run to check if track is fit, OHE is supplying electricity and trains are fit to operate. AT 1.10pm the first train --- 22159 Mumbai-Chennai Express --- passed the site.
The first half of Saturday was a nightmare. The railway stations were terribly crowded, people were forced to board congested locals and trains were running late by 30-40 minutes while the CR authorities ran Holiday timetable where there are lesser trains. Several long distance trains were cancelled through the day. All in all, people were inconvenienced.