Preliminary findings by the Railways revealed that automatic signalling was defective between Ranipatra and Chattar Hat in West Bengal where a goods train rammed the Kanchanjunga Express from behind. According to the findings, there was an apparent failure on the part of the goods train too in following speed restrictions it had to follow given the defective automatic signalling system on the section, sources told businessline.


Railway officials said it seemed that the loco pilot of the goods train “may not have observed conditions of stopping at or before the red signal and the speed limit”. Speed was higher than the permissible limits. The New Jalpaiguri station master had issued a “T/A912” cautionary note to all drivers passing through the section. The note mentioned, “automatic signalling has failed” and the pilot was “authorised to pass all automatic signals” between Ranipatra and Chattar Hat. According to reports, six other trains had passed through this Rangapani station without any mishap before said the goods train collided with the passenger train.

Observations show that the Kanchanjungha Express had stopped and slowed down its speed before all red signals (non-functional ones), as per laid down protocols, when the goods train collided with it, sources said. In case automatic signals are not functional, rules mandate trains stop at the defunct signals for a minute during day and 2 minutes during night, with speeds between 10 kmph (in poor visibility) and 15kmph during good visibility.

The loco-pilot has succumbed to his injuries. . The death toll from the accident reached 10 after a six-year-old succumbed to her injuries on Tuesday. The statutory probe will take place on June 19 at the New Jalpaiguri station.

Kavach installation back in focus

Nearly a month before the fatal accident, the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) had planned to start work on installing Kavach — the indigenously developed train collision prevention system — along 2000-odd route kms, or nearly half of its 4260 Rkms.

Clearances were provided for carrying out surveys along high density network (HDN) and highly used network (HUN) routes along Dibrugarh (in Assam) to Malda Town (in West Bengal) segment, documents show.

The Guwahati – Delhi segment does not have Kavach installed. “The High Density Network and Highly Used Network routes over NFR have been identified for implementation of Kavach. This indigenously developed train protection system has been planned to be commissioned in around 1,966-km from Malda Town and Dibrugarh,” an official communication from the divisional railway in May this year said.

Kavach is meant to provide protection by preventing trains to pass the signal at Danger (Red) and avoid collision. It activates the train braking system automatically and prevents collision between two locomotives equipped with a functional system. Tenders for installation on the system along the route is yet to be floated, sources in the know said.