Mumbai monorail fire: Train was operating without valid fitness certificate, say panel

According to senior MMRDA officials, the procedure could not be followed as the train was being used for the trial runs for Phase II through the night.

Written by Benita Chacko | Mumbai | Published: November 22, 2017 2:12 am
Mumbai monorail Time on the certificate was “corrected” after the accident, says the report. (Express Archive)

The monorail train that caught fire on November 9 was operating without a valid fitness certificate, reveals the preliminary report filed by the investigation committee. According to the report, the time on the fitness certificate was corrected after the accident. The fitness certificate was issued on November 8, 2017, at 11 am with a validity up to 12.30 am of November 9. However, the time was subsequently corrected as 23.59 hours of the same date “by cutting the original figures without any attestation”. The report mentions that the train caught fire at 4.52 am before crossing the Bhakti Park station.

“This clearly indicates that these corrections have been made after the accident. Thus, it was clear that the train moved from Wadala station without any valid fitness certificates,” reads the report. It says the validity was extended by the train supervisor without examination of the train and without taking into confidence the other two signatories. “The corrections made by him to extend the validity of fitness certificate from 00.30 hrs to 23:59 hrs was against the laid down procedure,” the report states.

According to senior Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) officials, the procedure could not be followed as the train was being used for the trial runs for Phase II through the night. The report indicates that the rake was used for trial runs from 12.07 am to 3.55 am on that day. “Usually, the trains are examined before signing the fitness certificate. But with the trial runs being conducted through the night, there is no time left to examine the trains. It was immediately sent for revenue service in the morning and the fitness certificate was extended without examining the train. If the train had been examined, the accident could have been averted,” says an official working on the project.

As the trains were not examined, they could not detect a flat tyre on one of the coaches, which eventually led to the fire. The report explains that the damaged tyre tended to spin more, causing more friction. The lubricant used for the tyre came in contact with the spark leading to the fire. Usually, a flat tyre can be detected through the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). However, in this case, even the TPMS sensor communication was not working as the required sensor has been out of stock for the last three months. The fitness certificate had noted “Load wheel no. 8 TPMS indication red due to sensor not available, but physically load wheel pressures are normal”.

“Scomi (the contractor) vide email dated 4th Aug 2016 at 21.45 hrs recommended that trains be not inducted into service until the TPMS is installed,” the committee notes. The committee has recommended that “no train should be allowed to run for passenger traffic unless the train is properly examined and made fit to run without any defects as per laid down procedures”. Among other recommendations, it has also mentioned that the administration must ensure that all safety items are in stock and available for use to rectify the defects during maintenance.

According to the report, the total cost of damages as assessed by the contractors L&T and Scomi Engineering (LTSE) was Rs 33 crore, which includes Rs 8 crore for damage to the station building, station installations, platform, etc. “The losses will be borne by the contractors and they will have to replace the burnt trains,” said MMRDA Metropolitan Commissioner U P S Madan. “This is only the interim report. The burnt items are with the forensic department. Based on their report, the final report will be presented by next week,” he said.

The monorail services have been stopped since the fire and they will resume only after the investigation committee submits the final report. The report also notes that there is no adequate provision for evacuation of passengers in the safety, health and environment manual. Noting that the train travels on an elevated corridor and the fire spreads quickly, it says the provisions are grossly inadequate in case of a fire. “…there are no pathways provided for passengers to come out of the burning train,” the report mentions. It also says there are some areas along the alignment that are inaccessible through road. “In case of fire, such locations are extremely vulnerable for evacuation of passengers. MMRDA should immediately plan to provide suitable rescue arrangement on such locations,” reads the report.

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