Vandalism and the lack of maintenance are being probed into to determine the cause of derailment of the Kasara local that claimed the life of one passenger and injured 12 others. The last five coaches of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST)-bound Kasara local derailed at 2.50 pm between Titwala and Ambivli railway stations on Thursday. A commissioner of railway safety (CRS) probe is being conducted into the accident.
An initial inspection of the accident site has revealed that 40 circular clips, which fasten horizontal concrete sleepers to rails, were missing. As a result, the necessary distance between the rails was found wanting. Known as pandrol clips, the spring steel clip, containing iron and weighing around 1kg, is typically sold for Rs 20 in the black market.
Four such clips are used to fasten one sleeper, and there are about 6,000 such clips used in a kilometre-long section. It has also been found that in a section near the accident spot, six per cent of the clips were missing.
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A senior railway official said, “It is suspected that drug addicts or vandals have taken them out and sold it.”
The distance between two rails close to the accident spot was found to be less at the curvature. While it is necessary to maintain a distance of 1,676 mm, it was found ranging between 1,667 and 1,672 mm. The increase in the distance between the rails could have caused the wheels to jolt and derail, say officials. The missing clips have raised concerns on the maintenance of tracks in the section.
Railway officials are also looking at whether a sudden increase in the day temperatures could have damaged the rail and caused the
“A sudden and vast increase in night and day temperature can stress rails. This can lead to rail fractures and in worse cases even derailment,” said another senior railway officer.
According to railway officials, derailment of the train caused the coaches to uncouple as the distance between the two sets of coaches was found more than that observed under ordinary uncoupling cases.
Normally, uncoupling leads to a sudden drop in the air pressure and application of emergency brakes, which makes a 12-car train at 100 kmph stop within 500 m, said a senior railway officer.
On Thursday, the Kasara fast was travelling at 84 kmph when the accident took place. Officials said unless the train derailed, the front six coaches could not have moved ahead by 366 m. If the uncoupling had taken place earlier, the front coaches would have stopped much before, said an officer.
On February 17, five coaches of a 12-car train uncoupled, while it was heading to Kalyan. The distance between the two sets of uncoupled coaches was found to be only five metres.