The inside story of how the disaster happened, who is to blame and what needs to be done to improve rail safety
New Delhi, Hyderabad,ISSUE DATE: Jun 19, 2023 | UPDATED: Jun 12, 2023 12:07 IST
Chaos a day after the triple train mishap in Balasore, June 3; (Photo: Arabinda Mahapatra)
At 9.30 pm on June 2, when Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Union minister for railways, landed in Goa to launch the Vande Bharat train from Panjim to Mumbai the next day, the officials who met him at the airport looked unusually grim. Then, they broke the bad news that there had been a triple collision between the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, a goods train and the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express at the Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore, Odisha. Vaishnaw knew the terrain well, having served as the district collector of Balasore in the late 1990s when he had made a name for himself for ensuring there were zero casualties in his jurisdiction during the Super Cyclone of Odisha in 1999. When he heard of the accident, among the first things Vaishnaw did was to call up the war room at the railway headquarters to check with senior officials if the national disaster management team had been dispatched. Next, he called his contacts in Odisha to make sure that the rescue operations were in full swing. Vaishnaw cancelled the function to launch the new train in Goa and took the same plane back to Delhi. At 3.30 am, he boarded a chartered flight to Bhubaneswar, and after a three-hour journey on an inspection train, he reached the site of the accident. His haste was well-warranted.