It seems the Indian Railways pays scant regard to safety aspects as far as the trains conducting services in Kerala are concerned. Two shocking incidents of negligence on the part of the Railways occurred in the state recently, one in the capital and the other in Palakkad district. In both events, several coaches were detached while the train was moving. Luckily, no accident occurred.
While the first incident involved the Thiruvananthapuram - Lokmanya Tilak Netravati Express, in the other the Palakkad- Chennai Express almost met with a serious accident.
The Netravati Express had just left the Thiruvananthapuram Central railway station and started its trip to Kurla in Mumbai when more than half the compartments got detached. The incident happened between Thiruvananthapuram Petta and Kochuveli railway stations.
The train had a total of 23 coaches and 16 were left behind while the engine moved ahead with seven compartments for about one km. The loco pilot, realizing the problem, soon brought the train to a halt. A mechanical team which included top officials reached the spot and rectified the issue. The engine and seven bogies travelled in the reverse direction and were attached again to the 16 coaches left behind. The train later resumed its journey after one hour.
A probe was launched by the safety section of the Railways and it was found that the incident occurred as the box couplings connecting the coaches had come off. However, the official version is that only a technical fault had occurred.
It is pointed out that box couplings rarely get detached. The coaches of Netravati Express were connected by the mechanical section in Kurla. The rake had arrived in Thiruvananthapuram the previous evening and had started its return trip to Kurla when the incident took place. At Thiruvananthapuram, only cleaning of the coaches, electrical work and filling of the water tanks were done. The mechanical section, meanwhile, had reported no fault.
On the other hand, in Palakkad, the engine of the Palakkad - Chennai Express was delinked from the coaches owing to a defective air pipe. The train had left Palakkad Junction at 3.15 pm and later started from Palakkad Town station at 3.27 pm. When it reached the Oottara level crossing on the Palakkad - Kollengode road, the loco pilot noticed that the engine was travelling alone; all the compartments were detached.
The spot was before the Kollengode railway station and the engine reversed to the bogies and a technical crew repaired the air pipe. The train resumed the journey from Kollengode at 4.08 pm with a delay of 13 minutes. As the train had come to a halt right at the level crossing, traffic was blocked on the Palakkad - Kollengode road for over 20 minutes.
According to passengers, the engine and bogies were separated at Palakkad Town station also. Railway authorities said that the cause of the fault could be identified only after a proper check at Dindigul. Meanwhile, Railway officials said that trains have an automatic braking system that brings the engine to a halt in case any coach get separated.