Railways probe finds rail fracture brought about 2017 Andhra prepare derailment; NIA had suspected sabotage

New Delhi, December 21

The Commissioner of Railway Safety has attributed the 2017 derailment of Hirakhand Express in Andhra Pradesh that left 40 dead to a rail “fracture”, three years after terror probe agency NIA stated in an FIR that it suspected “sabotage”.

In his final report on the accident, the Commissioner of Railway Safety (South Central Circle) Ram Kripal said the accident occurred due to a “fracture of tongue rail”.

The tongue rail—a nine-metre piece also called ‘switch rail’—is linked to both rails on a track and helps a locomotive change directions.

The broken piece was found near the accident site and was handed over to the National Investigation Agency.

The CRS report makes no mentions of the NIA FIR, but says while the Civil Engineering Department of the East Coast Railway was “blameworthy”, there was no official or any other person either “Primary Responsible” or even “Secondary Responsible” for the accident.

“Unfortunate incidents have happened in the past. However, these kinds of accidents as being mentioned in the report, are hopefully a thing of the past. An extraordinary amount of hard work has been put in by the Railways to eliminate such accidents and consequential casualties. Last two years have been the safest in the history of Indian Railways with zero casualties due to railway accidents,” Railway spokesperson DJ Narain said.

The NIA has not yet filed a chargesheet in the case.

The CRS report also said that its investigation could not establish if the fracture of the tongue rail happened because of material failure or out-lived codal life.

The 18448 Hirakhand Express, a scheduled passenger train from Jagdalpur to Bhubaneswar, derailed near Kuneru village in Vizianagaram of Andhra Pradesh on January 21, 2017, killing 40 people and injuring 68 others. 

The train, carrying 600 passengers, was travelling at a speed of 82 kmph when the accident happened.

The NIA FIR had mentioned sabotage by Maoists, who are active in the area, as a possibility. After taking over the case, the NIA had sent broken rail pieces, coach parts and gravel from under the tracks at the accident site to the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) at Hyderabad to check for explosives.

But no trace of explosives was found by the FSL, an official had said. — PTI

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