What really caused the train disaster in UP?

Lucknow, March 24 (IANS) Over three days after a train disaster left 38 people dead in Uttar Pradesh, it is not still clear what really caused the horrific accident.

Preliminary inquiry into the March 20 derailment in Rae Bareli district has apparently thrown up various versions, railway sources say.

Thirty-eight people were killed and dozens injured when the engine and three coaches of the Varanasi-bound Janata Express went off the tracks at Bachranwa, a small railway station.

The train had originated at Dehradun, Uttarakhand.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, some officials said the preliminary investigation also exposed poor maintenance of the coaches that derailed.

A Northern Railway official said the incident "exposed the entire system".

"Even the maintenance of the coaches had been given a go-by for years," he alleged. The coaches were reportedly 25 years old.

A maintenance check on one of the derailed coaches was scheduled for January 2 this year but it was not done, the official said.

This particular coach took the maximum impact, and was reduced from a 69-feet length train car to 10 feet of mangled remains of steel and iron.

Also, all the four brakes in the engine as well as the guard vacuum brake did not function that day, resulting in disaster, added the same source.

The train driver, the assistant driver and the guard, who were injured in the accident, were discharged from a railway medical facility on Sunday.

While the guard, A.K. Gupta, denies driver Parasnath Mishra's claim that he informed him of the brake failure on walkie-talkie, officials at Bachrawan station say none of the two said anything on the subject before the accident.

Soon after the accident, railway officials said that prima facie the train driver was to blame for the disaster.

He was accused of not stopping the train at Bachrawan, and then suddenly diverting the train on to a parallel track.

But some officials say it is good he did that because another train was approaching this train on the same track from the opposite direction.

Had the driver not diverted the train, there could have been a head-on collision, these officials say.

But if that is true, then who was at fault? The driver of the train that derailed or the train coming from the opposite direction?

As of now, there are too many questions and too few clear answers.

(Mohit Dubey can be to contacted at mohit.d@ians.in )

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