Freight train runs driverless for 75 km: Probe suggests driver, station master at fault

PTI, Feb 27, 2024, 11:57 AM IST

Image; X/@ANI (video screengrab)

A preliminary probe into the incident of the driverless running of a freight train for about 70 km from Kathua (Jammu) to Ucchi Bassi Station (Punjab) in Jammu Tawi-Pathankot section has suggested that both the driver as well as the station master failed to fulfil their responsibilities.

The joint probe report, signed by five senior railway officials, has recorded the statements of various persons involved in the incident and described the turn of events which point to dereliction of duties on the part of the driver and the station master of Kathua.

Exclusively accessed by PTI, the report said the loco pilot in his statement submitted that besides stabilising the engine and three wagons of the train by applying hand brakes, he also placed two wooden wedges before the wheels of the loco so that it couldn’t move.

The report added that, however, when the train was stopped at Ucchi Bassi the concerned station master carried out an inspection which was video recorded and found that the wagons’ handbrakes were not in applied position.

It further noted that the station master of Kathua, who was on duty, did not stabilise the train properly from 6.05 am to 7.10 am. Railway officials said that as per norms, the station master has to check if the brakes are properly applied and take other measures to ensure that it would not move.

According to the report, it was a divisional material train (DMT) which is used to carry railway materials for construction and other purposes. It was stationed at Kathua junction with 53 wagons and it had no brake van (guard’s coach).

The report said that at 5:20 am, the control room told the station master to tell the driver to take the train to Jammu but the driver refused as the train didn’t have any guard’s coach as well as a guard.

The control room, as per the report, asked the driver to shut down the train, be relieved of his duties and take a train to go to Jammu. The driver handed over the keys to the station master around 6 am and left for Jammu.

The report suggested that the train remained unmanned from 6 am to 7:10 am before it started moving on its own due to a down gradient.

Experts say that as per the norm the station master is supposed to give in writing to the loco pilot to leave the train unmanned but in this case, as per the report, it was not done. The loco pilot also didn’t make any entry in the load stabilizing register or put his sign there, the report said.

According to reports, the Divisional Railway Manager of the Firozpur division, under which the Kathua-Jammu Tavi section comes, has suspended six railway officials based on the preliminary probe and ordered a detailed investigation. When contacted, Shoban Chaudhari, General Manager, Northern Railway (NR), told PTI, ”At the moment I cannot make any statement regarding actions being taken against the officials since further probe is on.” According to an official railway communication, the driverless train ran at 70 to 75 km/h, crossed eight to nine stations and covered 75 km before it was stopped at Ucchi Bassi by putting obstructions such as sand and wooden blocks on the track.

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