The deadly accident involving the Patna-Indore Express is believed to have occurred as a result of ignoring repeated danger alerts raised by the loco pilot concerned.

According to the driver, senior officials were allegedly warned of the danger early, but they asked the driver to carry on and bring the train to Kanpur.

Following the instructions, Loco Pilot Jalat Sharma went ahead to drive the train to meet India’s worst train tragedy in the last six years. At least 142 people were killed and over 200 suffered injuries when 14 coaches of the train derailed near Pukhrayan at Kanpur Dehat district in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday morning.

Sharma, in his report, has said that he noticed an overload on engine meter when the train had crossed two stations after Jhansi. He immediately informed his colleague DP Yadav and then they alerted the officials concerned of Jhansi Zone at around 1:00 a.m. However, he was ordered to get the train to Kanpur anyhow.

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“I informed officials of the overload but was asked to carry on and reach Kanpur,” he told Dainik Bhaskar.

At 3:03 a.m. there was a heavy explosion in the Overhead Electric Cable (OHE), after which the driver had to apply an emergency brake. The train at that time was running at a speed of 110 km/h. As a result, the passengers experienced a series of sudden jerks and deafening noise. And then the coaches began slipping from the track.

Had there been not a circuit break as a result of the trip followed by the explosion in the OHE cable, the train would have caught a massive fire, Sharma reportedly said in his report.

If the driver’s report is to be trusted, it shifts spotlight back on passenger safety issues and raises many questions. If there was a risk of accident due to the overload and officials were informed beforehand, as mentioned in the report, why was not the train stopped immediately ? Who will now be responsible for the loss of so many innocent lives ?

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At a time when Indian Railways is in a transformation mode to focus on increasing capacity and re-designing the business model, passengers’ safety appears to have taken a backseat. Routine safety drills, say sources, are not carried out on a regular basis to check the preparedness to handle the emergency situations, 1 lakh-odd posts in the safety category are lying vacant.

“Even if micro cracks on the track were the reason behind the deadly accident, it took place because Ultra Sonic Fault Detection (USFD) checks of tracks are not routinely done,” said a senior official of the Ministry of Railways.

Another officer said requesting anonymity that rail tracks had of late deteriorated on account of the government’s business aims to run more and heavier trains.

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