Lucknow, Aug. 20: Track repairs, for which no one has claimed responsibility, may have caused the train derailment that killed 24 people yesterday, a preliminary probe has suggested, prompting the railways to act against several officials.
"Prime facie, it seems maintenance was being carried out on the tracks.... Some maintenance was going on, which may have caused the derailment of Utkal Express," PTI quoted Mohammad Jamshed, member traffic, Railway Board, as saying in Delhi.
He said a probe would reveal if any maintenance was being done on the tracks without permission.
In the evening, the railways acted against eight officials, including a secretary-level officer in the Railway Board.
The Uttar Pradesh administration had earlier indicated that ongoing track maintenance without adequate safety measures may have been behind the derailment of the Puri-Haridwar Kalinga-Utkal Express.
But Prakash Chandra, the stationmaster at Khatauli near which the accident took place, said today: "I have no information of any repairs going on there at the time of the tragedy. I didn't order any gangman to do maintenance work."
Some residents near the accident site had said yesterday that the tracks had been repaired at the spot in the morning after they had sunk because of heavy rain. They had suggested that insufficient embedding with concrete had caused the tracks to later bend under the train's weight.
Sources said that if the tracks were indeed being repaired, a red flag should have been planted to indicate the spot and the stationmaster should have stopped the train or alerted the driver to slow down.
R.K. Kulshreshtha, the general manager of Northern Railway, said no major repair was in progress.
"Minor repairs keep happening at all places. But we have crucial information, which can't be made public at the moment. It will be in the final inquiry report," he said, speaking at the accident site.
Kulshreshtha was among those who were sent on leave in the evening.