Failed Railway Signals Kill 275 in India

Akella Srinivas Ramalingaswami /
Akella Srinivas Ramalingaswami /

The calm evening peace on June 3rd in Balasore in the Indian state of Odisha was disturbed abruptly and suddenly as three trains collided. As authorities worked to clear the mangled wreckage of one of the country’s worst train disasters, they made a shocking and alarming discovery. An electronic signal system had malfunctioned, causing the two passenger trains to collide with a freight train.

As they cleared the carnage, the initial death toll climbed. While it was clear that hundreds were injured, by June 4th the unofficial number had jumped to 300. However, that has not been confirmed completely by local authorities.

What has been confirmed by senior railway official Jaya Verm Sinha is what happened as far as the preliminary investigation shows. From what they have been able to identify, the high-speed Coromandel Express was given a signal to run along the main line, but that signal was later changed. The train was instead sent to an adjacent loop line. It was there that the passenger train slammed into a freight train carrying iron ore.

This collision sent the Coromandel Express’s coaches into another track. This caused the incoming Yesvantpur-Howrah Express on the opposite side to derail. These passenger trains were carrying 2,296 people and were traveling well within reasonable speeds. Sinha also confirmed it is the loop line that the freight train should have been on to allow the passing by Coromandel Express to pass, as is customary in the country.

Sinha explained “The system is 99.9% error free. But 0.1% chances are always there for an error,” however when pressed about the potential of sabotage to occur she said, “Nothing is ruled out.”

Unlike recent high-profile rail accidents here in the US, the railway administrators in India were more than happy to investigate quickly, assign blame, get people to the hospital, and work on getting their rails up and running again as soon as possible. While the liberal mainstream media would love to proclaim that’s due to the difference in rail size, that’s quite untrue.

Home to the largest train network under one management in the world, India’s railways have several hundred accidents per year. Yet they occur most often with freight cars and are under-publicized due to a lack of human interest as they usually only result in property damage and are only between two trains, and not three.

With 1.42 billion people, the residents of India are incredibly dependent on the railway to enjoy the lives and lifestyles that they have become accustomed to. Originally designed and opened while under British colonial rule, the rail system has needed updates and modernization. Something they have been working on extensively from one end of the nation to the other.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi told reporters he felt the pain of the victims and their families. He has promised full help and cooperation from the government for the survivors as well as the families of the victims. He has also vowed strict punishment for anyone determined to be responsible for the heinous accident. His visit to the crash site and the hospital on June 4th is something we have never seen from a leftist while in office here in the US.

Modi’s dedication to the infrastructure and support for the people of India is second to none. Any public official would be wise to learn from his example and to be there for the people he represents as quickly as possible. The idea of waiting and waiting like the people of the train crash in Ohio, is horrific. They deserved better from their national and even state-level elected officials. It isn’t hard to go visit the victims of a train accident, despite their best efforts to produce results to the contrary.

The 1995 two-train collision in New Delhi killed 358 people, and at the time publication remains the deadliest in Indian history. By comparison, the deadliest train accident in the US is the Malbone Street Wreck that left 102 dead back in 1918.