Thursday 15 June 2023

India train crash: Signal error caused 275 deaths, hundreds of injuries

Global News on Youtube has the story.

The train derailment in eastern India that killed 275 people and injured hundreds was caused by an error in the electronic signaling system that led a train to wrongly change tracks and crash into a freight train, officials said on Sunday.

Jaya Verma Sinha, a senior railway official, said the preliminary investigations revealed that a signal was given to the high-speed Coromandel Express to run on the main track line, but the signal later changed, and the train instead entered an adjacent loop line where it rammed into a freight loaded with iron ore.

The collision flipped Coromandel Express’s coaches onto another track, causing the incoming Yesvantpur-Howrah Express from the opposite side also to derail, she said.

Authorities worked to clear the mangled wreckage of the two passenger trains that derailed Friday night in Balasore district in Odisha state in one of the country’s deadliest rail disasters in decades.

Classification of railway accidents is interesting:

Classification of railway accidents, both in terms of cause and effect, is certainly a valuable aid in studying rail (and other) accidents to help to prevent similar ones occurring in the future. Systematic investigation for over 150 years has led to the railways' excellent safety record (compared, for example, with road transport).

Ludwig von Stockert (1913) proposed a classification of accidents by their effects (consequences); e.g. -on-collisions, rear-end collisions, derailments. Schneider and Mase (1968) proposed an additional classification by causes; e.g. driver's errors, signalmen's errors, mechanical faults. Similar categorisations had been made by implication in previous books e.g. Rolt (1956), but Stockert's and Schneider/Mase's are more systematic and complete. With minor changes, they represent best knowledge.

Classification of rail accidents by effects:

Collisions with trains:
- Head-on collision
- Rear-end collision
- Slanting collision

Collisions with buffer stops (overrunning end of track)

Collisions with obstructions on the track (may also cause derailment)
- Collision with landslips (in cuttings)

By location:
- Plain track
- Curves
- Junctions


- Fires, explosions and release of hazardous chemicals (including sabotage/terrorism)
- People falling from trains, collisions with people on tracks

Classification of rail accidents by causes:

Drivers' errors:
- Passing signals at danger
- Excessive speed
- Mishandling of the engine (e.g. boiler explosions)
- Failure to check brakes and safety systems as well as sand reserve
- Failure to stop at required positions, e.g. level crossings with defective equipment or shunting movements that lead to occupied tracks.

Signalmen's errors:
- Allowing two trains into same occupied block section
- Incorrect operation of signals, points or token equipment

(Mechanical) failure of rolling stock:
Poor design
Poor maintenance
Undetected damage
Overloading or freight that is not adequately secured.
Fire starting from combustion motors, electric cables or equipment, leaking fuel or cooling oil

Civil engineering failure:
Track (permanent way) faults
Bridge and tunnel collapses
Poor track or junction layout

Acts of other people:
Other railway personnel (shunters, porters, maintenance personnel, etc.)
Non-railway personnel

- Accidental track obstruction e.g. with road vehicles or by working construction vehicles

Deliberate (vandalism, terrorism, suicide, extortion, sabotage)
Deliberate track obstruction, e.g. with road vehicles or (heavy) objects
Intentional damage to infrastructure like tracks, points or signals
Level crossing misuse

Natural causes:

Track obstruction or damage by landslides, avalanches, floods, trees
Fog or snow that obscure signals or the current position of the train
Wet leaves (or their remains) making the tracks slippery.

Contributory factors:
Strength of rolling stock
Fire hazards or dangerous goods in the train, in involved road vehicles or the vicinity
Effectiveness of brakes
Inadequate rules

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