EMU derailment incident exposes alleged buffer failure

Railway sources disclosed to DT Next that the shunter (motorman) who piloted the empty rake (train) from the yard to the station, had overshot the speed restriction for the section.
EMU derailment incident exposes alleged buffer failure

Chennai: Preliminary investigation of the EMU (Electrical Multiple Unit) derailment at Chennai Beach station has revealed alleged oversight and systemic failure.

Railway sources disclosed to DT Next that the shunter (motorman) who piloted the empty rake (train) from the yard to the station, had overshot the speed restriction for the section.

“The train is said to have reached the platform at 20kmph instead of the stipulated speed limit for the station 15kmph. Everything is electronically recorded these days,” said the railway source. Meanwhile, information has started trickling out of railway police probing the incident that the experienced shunter might have hit the operating lever (throttle) instead of the brake during the shunting process.

Significantly, the speed violation has also exposed a few other glaring failures in the system. “Footage at the station shows that the train did not reach the platform at 50kmph or more. If two buffers cannot jointly absorb an additional 5kmph or at least onefold (15kmph) the speed limit for which they were designed, then it exposes the systemic failure. Either the buffer in the EMU maintained by a third party under annual maintenance contract (AMC) or the buffer in the speed breaker (dead end) or both had failed,” a railway officer reasoned on condition of anonymity.

Railway sources also attributed the motorman’s oversight, if any, to the design of the operating lever of the EMU. “In the old electrical or conventional rakes, once the motorman lifts the hand from the operating lever, the throttle returns to zero. In the modern electronic rakes, one of which was the derailed EMU, the engine power remains in a certain stage like a car being brought to first gear. The investigators should probe if the shunter was properly guided about the operating lever,” the officer added.

Similarly, the latest EMUs have a remote troubleshooting system on board. The microprocessor controlled EMU could be troubleshooted from a remote location like the metro rails. The troubleshooting system is vested with the company providing AMC. Failure of the troubleshooter should also be investigated, a railway source added. It is the troubleshooting system that prevents the hijacking of trains and incidents like the infamous Vyasarpadi Jiva crash in which an anonymous man hijacked the train and crashed it at the station years ago.

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