IT stopped just ten metres short of a coffee stall, as a train’s rake came crashing into the platform at a speed of 30 kmph while entering Churchgate railway station. With the train overshooting its course, and the overhead wires snapping immediately as a result of serious friction, officials suspect the motorman failed to apply brakes on time.
The collision occurred at 11.20 am Sunday, injuring five passengers, including the motorman who was subsequently suspended.
The CCTV visual released by evening shows shocked commuters jumping off the train, even as waiting passengers try to run, as the visuals show overhead wires come snapping. S K Sood, General Manager, Western Railway, said they were looking at the incident as a “manual error”.
While there was no fatality, the train hub had transformed into a sight-seeing point by evening, with commuters and eyewitnesses gaping at the battered front profile of the coach that continued to be perched mid-air, even as engineers tried to repair its impact on the track and the overshot metal buffers. The cement edges of the platform had also come chipped off as they could not stand the friction of the crashing coach.
Five hours after the collision, the guard and the loco inspector also stood suspended.
“Motorman L S Tiwary has also sustained injuries. The coach was badly damaged,” said Shailendra Kumar, Divisional Railway Manager of the Western Railway (WR). “Being Sunday, the platform was not crowded, else it would have resulted in a big disaster,” he said.
Sood and Kumar reached the spot and launched restoration operation of the suburban services by noon.
Senior officials suspected failure in applying brakes as the primary cause, though they also said it was “too early and premature to speak about the cause of the accident”. The probe now has included all technical apparatus, including the speed detectors, and CCTV cameras to ascertain the time the coach took to cross the length of the platform. “The exact reason can be ascertained only after proper investigation,” said WR’s chief PRO Sharat Chandrayan.
“Last year, we installed hydrualic buffers at Chuchgate station, which reduced the speed of the train at the time of collision, otherwise this accident may have been worse,” said Kumar.
Chandrayan said the overhead cable broke at many points due to the collision. “A crane would be allowed only after its path is cleared as the station has public movements,” he said
The services were affected through the day with incoming trains diverted to other platforms and 40 trains cancelled, with the track of Platform No. 3 holding the train’s front rake for repairs. The damaged rake came from the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, and was part of the 10 imported in 2012. The rakes have manual as well as electronic brakes, any of which could have been applied. Each rake cost the Railways Rs 5 crore with the officials now looking to see the overall extent of the damage, with the affected track considered non-functional till the hydrualic buffers and the platform and overhead wires are restored.
Almost all trains on the west-bound routes were affected by at least an hour’s delay. To ensure that all causes of the accident are probed, the motorman was also sent to check if he had consumed alcohol. “The breathalyser test was done immediately, but it showed negative result. We have sent the blood samples of the three suspended personnel for further probe,” said Kumar.
The railways had cordoned off the south-end of the concourse, closer to the crash, through the day, with gates that led to platforms 3 and 4 kept locked. Steel benches, cordon tapes from construction sites, and available seating furniture was used to keep the excited public away from the crash site. Members of the Railway Protection Force (RPF), Government Railway Police and even ticket collectors found themselves acting as human barriers as photographs of the site spread through social media and the numbers of visitors only swelled by evening.
Police officials armed with batons and blowing their whistles kept the public from getting injured again, even as people kept flocking to take selfies. Dipti Kaur, 24, who was seen sharing a selfie with her family in Borivali, said, “How many times does one get to see something like this? It is scary but amusing. Churchgate station is buzzing.”
A constable with the RPF, M L Veera, said when a train arrived on the other tracks, they had been instructed to close all six doors in the first two boogies avoid the public to get near the crash site.
“For the public, this is exciting. For us, this is a nightmare. We were lucky that this did not happen on a Monday morning,” said Veera, adding that it would have created a stampede situation on a weekday.
According to Dr D R Kulkarni, medical superintendent at state-run Gokuldas Tejpal Hospital, two injured passengers brought to the hospital were treated on out-patient department basis and discharged by afternoon. “One patient named Anita Prakash had a swelling on scalp and another patient Mohammad Mansoori had back injury. We took X-rays of both, which were normal. They were given medications and discharged,” Kulkarni said.