People watch the site where trains that derailed, in Balasore district, in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, Sunday, June 4, 2023. Image Credit: AP

Balasore: The train derailment in eastern India that killed more than 280 people and injured hundreds more was caused by an error in the electronic signalling system that led a train to wrongly change tracks, India’s railways minister said Sunday.

“Who has done it and what is the reason will come out of an investigation,” Ashwini Vaishnaw said in an interview with New Delhi Television network.

Vaishnaw said that the tragic train accident in Odisha’s Balasore occurred due to a “change in electronic interlocking”.

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Electronic interlocking is an arrangement of signal apparatus that prevents conflicting movements between trains through an arrangement of tracks. It is a safety measure to prevent signals from being changed in improper sequence. The aim of this system is that no train gets the signal to proceed unless the route is proven safe.

People look at the photographs of passengers who were travelling in the trains that got derailed for identification in Balasore district, in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, Sunday, June 4, 2023. Image Credit: AP

Speaking to ANI, Ashwini Vaihsnaw said, “This is a different issue. It is about point machine, electronic interlocking. The change that occurred during electronic interlocking, the accident happened due to that.”

He further said that restoration work is going on and normalcy will be restored before Wednesday morning.

“The commissioner of railway safety has investigated the matter and it won’t be right for me to comment on that. Let the investigation report come. But the cause of the accident has been identified and the people responsible for it have been identified. Right now our focus is on restoration. There are two main lines and two loop lines. The work is underway and we will definitely complete restoration well before our target of Wednesday morning,” Vaishnaw said.

The explanation came as authorities worked to clear the mangled wreckage of the two passenger trains that derailed Friday night in Balasore district of eastern Odisha state, in one of the country’s deadliest rail accidents in decades.

The Press Trust of India news agency earlier reported that preliminary investigations revealed that a signal was given to the Coromandel Express to enter the main track line but the signal was later taken off. The train entered another line, known as the loop line, and crashed into a goods train parked there, PTI said.

Fifteen bodies were recovered on Saturday evening and efforts continued overnight as heavy cranes were used to remove an engine that had settled on top of a rail car. No bodies were found in the engine and the work was completed on Sunday morning, said Sudhanshu Sarangi, director-general of fire and emergency services in Odisha.