LAHORE: The Pakistan Railways (PR) administration on Monday removed the Chief Signal Engineer, a grade 20 officer, and sent him to the PR headquarters.

Described as unusual in the PR circles, Munir Khan Khilji’s removal follows the July 11 crash in which Akbar Express rammed into a freight train at the Walhar station near Sadiqabad in Rahim Yar Khan district and left two dozen passengers dead.

Though a team headed by the Federal Government Inspector of Railways (FGIR) didn’t mention any issue with the signaling system (interlocking system) and held the passenger train driver and his assistant responsible in the preliminary inquiry report, the administration took the action after it received orders from top authorities on a media report which exposed faulty signal and points system that put the train on the loop line where the goods train was stationed.

According to a notification, the PR chairman transferred CSE Munir Khan Khilji and posted him as project, planning, monitoring and evaluation specialist at the PR headquarters. The chairman posted Irshadul Haq (a BS-19 officer) as the CSE.

An official source termed the development pertinent in view of the future course of action the PR administration may adopt against various officers in the wake of the recent train tragedy. “Had the preliminary inquiry held impartially, it would have recommended action against some other senior officials concerned rather than the `poor’ driver and his assistant. The CSE’s removal indicates possible transfer of more officers in coming days,” he added.

According to him, the inquiry team had also not mentioned the absence of the Walhar assistant station master from his office at the time of the accident and the points man doing his job.

He said two relays of the interlocking system were found burnt during site visits by the inquiry team members that proved defect in the signaling system. Moreover, staff at the Walhar station had made system operational temporarily by inserting match sticks in the equipment/instrument.

“The staff did so probably due to shortage or non-availability of material that is used to rectify such faults in an appropriate way,” the official said, adding the system relays were also found to be tampered with during the inspection.

Meanwhile, a PR team headed by the FGIR launched on Monday a detailed probe into the crash. “Anyone knowing anything about the accident may approach the team on July 19 and 20 at the office of Sukkar DS for recording his / her statement,” said a spokesperson for the PR.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2019