by TAHIR AMIN
ISLAMABAD: The 7-members civil-military Joint Enquiry Committee (JEC) concluded that the derailment of S-318 (Military special) train occurred due to its running at an excessive speed, which caused the tragic and fatal accident killing 16 military officers/officials along with train driver.
The Special Military trains are still considered and treated as freight trains and SOPs for movement of these trains need to be reviewed/revised. A Committee comprising Army and Railway officers may be constituted for the purpose, recommended the JEC report presented before the Senate and National Assembly Standing Committee on Railways, which met with Sardar Fateh Muhammad Hassani and Syed Naveed Qamar in the chairs.
The Railways Minister informed the committee that it was the first ever accident of its nature in Railways history, where no interference was made in its work. He further said that Railways need about $10-12 billion investment in next few years to make it compatible in the region. The minister said that there were 14 thousands railways bridges across the country whereas 159 require repairing. Of these, 50 are being repaired and efforts are being made to complete the work in two years.
It was further revealed that speed meter of the train was not working, while the SoPs for Special Military trains were questionable and needed to be reviewed. Speed of the train should have been 30 km per hour while passing through the bridge but at the time of accident the speed of the train was 75 to 85 km per hour, Railways officials revealed.
The Ministry informed the Committee that a seven member JEC headed by Mian Muhammad Arshad, Federal Government Inspector of Railways was formed. The committee considered all probable causes of derailment of locomotive and concluded that the derailment of S-318 (Military special) occurred due to running of the train at an excessive speed, resulting in such a catastrophe.
Major General Shahzad Sikandar (Director General Engineers, GHQ) informed the committee that speed meter of the train was not functional. Further Special Military trains are still being treated as freight trains, which needed to be reviewed. The JEC on the basis of evidence, statements of witnesses, scrutiny of the relevant record, observations during the site inspection and discussion considered all probable causes of derailment viz bridge, track, locomotive, sabotage which were ruled out or found inconclusive and has therefore, come to the conclusion that the derailment of train occurred due to “running of the train at an excessive speed more than double the permissible speed of 30 km//h for Group-I locomotives which facilitated increase of lateral and vertical oscillations to become violent with the result that wheels of the rear truck of the locomotive derailed inside and outside on curved track resulting in such a catastrophe, aggravated due to late application of emergency brakes.”
The National Assembly Standing Committee recommended that Pakistan Railways in consultation with Pakistan Army should develop effective SOPs for the movement of Military special trains. The Committee also suggested up gradation of the existing infrastructure of Pakistan Railways.
According to the report, the approximate cost of damages to the D.E. locomotive train, rolling stock and permanent way have been assessed as Rs 4, 80, 21,750 The JEC held three officials including Riaz Ahmad (driver) responsible for running the train at an excessive speed and being not vigilant. He also did not observe speed restriction of stop dead at bridge. Had he been vigilant enough, he must have stopped the train at bridge after receiving Caution order. Further Muhammad Fayyaz Assistant Driver is held responsible in this case as he was to assist the driver to observe the permissible speed and all speed restrictions imposed on the section. In addition, he also misled the enquiry committee by giving false statement.
Shahid Mehmood, Points man, who worked as Guard is held responsible for not being vigilant and not applying the brakes during journey on observing excessive speed by the driver against permissible speed of 30km/h. He also misled the enquiry committee by giving false statement.
The committee also held five officials indirectly responsible for the incident. Muhammad Ehsan-ul-Haq, Station Superintendent, Muhammad Hanif, Zahid Saeed Chief Controller, Control Office, Syed Zafar Siddique Dy. Chief Controller, Allahyar Dy. Chief Controller, and Muhammad Awais Akhtar Section Controller. The JEC recommended that communication system between the train drivers and Control office needs improvement – Railway Administration should make arrangements for direct communication system between the train driver or any suitable system in the locomotives.
Officials of Accident Investigation Team may be equipped with modern investigation techniques and provided with latest equipment. The acute shortage of running staff ie Drivers, Assistant Drivers and Guards on overall system should be recouped by making recruitment on priority basis keeping in view the increased freight traffic in future.
The RGE-24 locomotives of 1967 origin be evaluated for serviceability. If deemed appropriate they may be taken off from active operations (passenger operations) and be used for shunting and other miscellaneous duties. New locomotives may be commissioned in their place. In order to improve the safety, Rai0lway bridges with more than 100 years of life to be evaluated and analysed for strength/ serviceability through testing. Bridges not qualifying such tests to be rehabilitated or replaced as deemed appropriate.
Source: Business Recorder