| A woman, who escaped the Frontier Mail tragedy on Thursday, with her child. (AFP)
New Delhi, May 15: A week before the Frontier Mail burned, a report was unveiled in Parliament identifying staff failure and faulty signalling equipment as the causes for the Gaisal train collision of 1999.
More than 100 people died in the collision between the Dibrugarh-Delhi Brahmaputra Mail and the Delhi-Guwahati-Avadh Assam Express.
According to the final report submitted by the chief commissioner of railway safety, A.K. Sengupta, to the railway ministry: “The accident was caused by the failure of railway staff and multiple flaws in the system of working in the Katihar division of the North-East Frontier Railway.”
The commission of inquiry has found 35 railway officials responsible for the accident.
The report also pointed out signal failures, discrepancy in signalling diagram and lacunae in rosters.
It said only accumulation of neglect over many years could have degraded the system to the extent that such a major accident occurred.
Currently, signalling equipment needs to be replaced at 1,560 railway stations. “Even in the most important zone — the South-Eastern Railway — 95 per cent of lever frames on the route are due for replacement. The present status of signalling and gear replacement is a matter of grave concern and there is an urgent need to hasten the arrears (replacement of signalling and gear systems),” the report says.
Railway board officials said the “arrears” were accruing due to the failure to allot adequate funds. Barely 10 per cent of the depreciation reserve fund is allocated for replacing signalling gear and other repair projects.
The report also says ground staff are ignorant of rules and procedures for running trains. “Many Group ‘D’ staff have never seen the general rules, subsidiary rules and station working instructions. A few assistant station masters examined were unaware of several provisions in the rule books,” the report says.