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Was There A 'Repair On, Stop Train' Note? Station Officials Say 'No Idea'

The Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express derailed in Khatauli in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar on Saturday

New Delhi:  Preliminary responses from various divisions of the railways today indicated that human error might be at the bottom of a train accident that claimed 20 lives in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday. The Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express was going at 100 km per hour when it derailed last evening near Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh. Four of the coaches went off the track. One of the coaches was even catapulted across another and hit some buildings beside the tracks.

It now appears that some repair work on the tracks was in progress, of which the station master of Khatauli, the nearest station, claimed to have been unaware.  

Rajiv Kumar Kulshreshtha, the general mamager of the Northern Railways, said track repair equipment were found yesterday at the site. “It is said that there were some work going on and the necessary precautions were not taken,” he said.  

Sources in the railways’ engineering division said they had warned the Khatauli station authorities of the ongoing repair work. No train was meant to pass on the tracks for 20 minutes and the station authorities were informed, they said, adding two trains had even slowed down on the stretch before the repair started.

But Rajinder Singh, Station Superintendent, Khatauli told NDTV, “We had no knowledge of technical problems”.

Railways minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered that responsibility be fixed by the end of the day  on basis of “prima facie” evidence. But railway officials said it could be another day or two before they reach a conclusion.  

Mr Kulshreshtha said the investigation will begin after the restoration work on the tracks. “We will talk to all those who were present at station, the engineering staff. There will be an inquiry by the commissioner of railway safety and the truth will come out,” he added.