Finding glaring shortcomings in the Bikaner-Guwahati Express derailment on January 13 this year, which killed nine people, the Railway Safety Commissioner (CRS) discovered that the locomotive was operating without the mandatory inspection scheduled.
The electric locomotive had failed the mandatory traffic check every 4,500 km traveled and continued to tow the train for 18,000 km when it derailed, according to the preliminary report submitted by the CRS, Northeast Frontier section.
The report also questioned “ghost reviews” being carried out on the rail network.
The locomotive’s traction motor had fallen off the track causing the derailment of the Bikaner Express at Jalpaiguri and the railways had ordered an investigation by CRS after the accident.
“During the investigation, it was found that the locomotive had undergone the last trip inspection on December 6, 2021 and has since been in continuous operation and traveled approximately 18,000 km before a possible derailment accompanied by an engine of traction fell on January 13, 2022,” said the report submitted to the Board of Railways.
CRS pointed out that according to the prescribed inspection schedule, locomotives must undergo a trip inspection every 4,500 km, which was not guaranteed.
The locomotive ran continuously as a missed link locomotive; it did not touch the designated station for travel inspection.
The report stated: “Trip inspection is an important examination in which locomotive under-equipment is inspected by trained railway officers to ensure safety and railways are expected to have institutionalized systems to monitor and ensure this is done on time.”
It also found that the stations assigned to travel inspection did not have such a review mechanism.
How such a phantom review can take place is a matter of investigation by the railroads, according to the CRS report.
Recommending the necessary steps to prevent such accidents, the Rail Safety Commissioner suggested that the railways take the necessary steps to ensure that trip inspections are monitored for each locomotive.
“It is the responsibility of the railway to ensure that a locomotive undergoes all due care and examination, including journey inspection, on time. Railways must verify that all stations designated for the locomotive inspection have the required facilities and that railway-issued locomotive links are executable in the field to ensure timely inspection and maintenance,” he recommended.
CRS also recommended involving the national carrier’s safety department to check the locomotive links and ensure the necessary corrective measures, if necessary.