LAHORE: In a preliminary investigation, human error has been identified as the primary reason for the Sept 24 collision of the Mianwali Express with a freight train parked on the loop line of the Qila Sattar Shah Station near Sheikhupura.
The accident had left nine people, including crew members, injured and caused massive damage to the locomotive, a couple of passenger coaches and the railway track, disrupting the up/down rail operation for over three hours on the Lahore-Faisalabad track.
“Though a detailed inquiry is underway, we have reached a consensus that the primary reason behind this accident was the human error involving negligence of, primarily, the station master and the cabin man (Kantaywala) and secondarily, of the driver,” Pakistan Railways (PR) Divisional Superintendent (Lahore) Hanif Gul confirmed while talking to Dawn on Sunday.
“I am sure that our finding, based on our experience in the PR, is 80pc correct but the detailed inquiry is underway at the moment,” he said.
The 147-Up Mianwali Express was on its way to Lahore when it hit at about 4:40am a freight train parked at a loop line No 3 at Qila Sattar Shah Station, around 20km east of Sheikhupura. Resultantly, the passenger train’s engine, some coaches and the rear van of the goods train were derailed. The accident left four passengers and five officials injured.
The injured officials included Nauman (train manager), Abu Bakar (staff of the train contractor), Abdul Sattar (staff), Imran Sarwar (driver) and Bilal (assistant driver). Both the driver and the assistant driver were also shifted to the Cairns Railway Hospital in Lahore for treatment.
After the incident, the railways authorities had suspended from service five officials, including the station master, cabin man, driver and assistant driver.
Sharing details of the preliminary findings, PR Lahore Division chief Hanif Gul termed the communication issue among the station master, cabin man and the driver a major reason behind the accident.
According to him, everything was fine as the station authorities received a goods train from the main line and took it to be parked on the loop line.
“The Mianwali Express was not supposed to have any stoppage at the Qila Sattar Shah Station as it had to pass the station on the main line. Before arrival of the train at the outer signal, which is also called as reception signal, the station master conveyed to the cabin man to make route for Mianwali Express—which means the cabin man was supposed to make interlocking system (Kanta) in a bid to keep the train on the main line.”
Mr Gul said since the route was earlier set for the goods train, which had already reached there after crossing the reception and home signals and observing green flag hoisted by the cabin man by keeping in the cabin’s window facing various lines, the cabin man couldn’t set it for the main line where the 147-Up was to pass. He also didn’t pick the green flag lying and hoisting in the cabin window and started heading towards the station master office to convey about the issues causing hindrances in the way of route-setting for the ill-fated train.
In the meantime, the driver crossed the outer signal after the station master allowed him to enter on VHF Motorola phone, assuming that the cabin man had settled the route for the main line. But when the train reached the home signal, it turned toward the loop line-3 and hit the already parked goods train from behind (the tail-end wagon).
To a question, Mr Gul said the driver applied emergency brakes at the home signals and still hit the goods train with low speed.
“Had the driver applied brakes at the outer signal, he would have averted the accident,” he claimed.
Meanwhile, an initial investigation report compiled by five officers states that the ill-fated train entered the loop line No 3 instead of the main line due to the point (Kanta) that was set towards the loop line No 3 instead of the main line.
The route was ‘under setting’ process by the cabin man who left the cabin to check the route setting without permission of the station master and also failed to inform the actual point setting position to the station master, who allowed the driver on the VHF to pass without ensuring the proper route setting of the point.
“The driver followed the green hand signal of the cabin man.
Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023