Utkal Express tragedy: what we know so far

On 19th August, six coaches of Puri-Haridwar-Kalinga Utkal Express derailed near Muzaffarnagar’s Khatauli.

Over 20 people have died and 60 injured in the train derailment that took place on Friday evening where terror attack angle was probed.

The accident occurred around 5.45 p.m. when 14 coaches of the Puri-Haridwar Kalinga Utkal Express bound for Haridwar derailed in Khatauli in Meerut-Saharanpur Division. The impact of the accident was so severe that one of the coaches could be seen mounted on another while another coach had crashed into the Chowdhary Tilakram Inter College along the tracks.

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As per latest reports, it seems some repair work being carried out on the track.

At 5.45 pm on Saturday, Muzaffarnagar Station Master Neeraj Sharma saw a line of green dots on the screen of his monitor, indicating that the track from Khatauli railway station was clear. This meant that the Kalinga Utkal Express would cross Khatauli and reach Muzaffarnagar at its scheduled time of 5:54 pm.

But minutes later, Sharma got a call informing him that the train had derailed seconds after crossing Khatauli. “If maintenance work was going on near Khatauli, a section should have been red on the screen. The driver should have either been asked to stop or pass the area slowly, depending on the work being carried out,” said Sharma.

However, Northern Railways officials admitted on Sunday,

“It is a major coordination lapse. Our repairmen had removed a small section of the track and were in the process of replacing it when the Utkal Express came down the tracks at a speed of 100 kmph. Clamps and tools have been found near the accident site to indicate repair work was underway. The officials at Khatauli should have known. The PWI (permanent way inspector) should have informed them,” said a senior Northern Railways official.

Audio tapes of alleged conversation between gateman and his colleague on that line reveal there there seems to be oversight of repair work happening on the track. The alleged conversation reveals that the tracks which were removed for repaid were put back but the welding was not done which resulted in the derailment.

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