Resuming services just over two days after India’s deadliest rail crash in more than two decades, trains crossed the disaster spot in eastern Odisha state where at least 275 people died and 1,200 were injured in collision between three trains.
Signal failure has emerged as a likely cause of the disaster on Friday, when a passenger train hit a stationary freight train, jumped the tracks and hit another passenger train passing in the opposite direction near the district of Balasore.
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After the completion of two days of rescue and repair work, the railway ministry said on Twitter that trains had begun operating on the same route by Sunday evening. And an Indian Railways officer told Reuters on Monday that they were running almost normally, though with some restrictions.
“Trains are required to control their speed and proceed slowly for a certain distance,” the officer said.
India’s Railway Board, the top executive body, has recommended that the Central Bureau of Investigation take over the probe into the cause of the disaster.
“We have to move towards normalization... Our responsibility is not over yet,” railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told reporters.
Preliminary investigations indicated the Coromandel Express, heading to Chennai from Kolkata, moved out of the main track and entered a loop track -- a side track used to park trains -- at 128 kph (80 mph), crashing into the freight train parked on the loop track.
That crash caused the engine and first four or five coaches of the Coromandel Express to jump the tracks, topple and hit the last two coaches of the Yeshwantpur-Howrah train heading in the opposite direction at 126 kph on the second main track.
Passenger and freight trains were running again on Monday 51 hours after the crash.
Trains rumbled past the debris of smashed carriages from the crash near Balasore in the eastern state of Odisha, where nearly 300 people were killed and hundreds injured.
Officials had initially reported the death toll stood at 288, but the Odisha state government has since revised the toll down to 275 after some bodies were mistakenly counted twice.
Of the 1,175 injured, 382 were still being treated in hospital, authorities said on Sunday. However, many fear the death toll could still rise with medical centers overwhelmed by the number of casualties, many in serious condition.
Green netting was erected on either side of the tracks, shielding the crumpled carriages, which had been pushed down the embankment, from the view of travelling passengers.
Railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw was seen folding his hands in prayer as he saw the first train cross the site of the disaster late Sunday.
The railways ministry said the first train, a goods train loaded with coal, started 51 hours after the crash.
It was not immediately clear if all the tracks had been fully repaired, with trains on Monday using only lines on one side.
Vaishnaw said on Sunday the crash happened due to the “change that occurred during electronic interlocking,” referring to a technical term for a complex signal system designed to stop trains colliding by arranging their movement on the tracks.
“Whoever did it, and how it happened, will be found out after proper investigation,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the crash site and injured passengers in hospital on Saturday and said “no one responsible” would be spared.
Cause and ‘people responsible’ for India train crash identified: Rail minister
Indian rail minister says signaling error led to crash that killed over 300 people
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