India’s Worst Rail Disaster in Two Decades: Faulty Connections in Signalling System Blamed

By | July 4, 2023

In a tragic incident that unfolded on June 2 at Bahanaga Bazar station in Odisha, India, the country witnessed its most devastating rail disaster in twenty years. An official investigation has revealed that the calamity, which claimed the lives of 288 individuals and left over 1,000 injured, was caused by workers’ erroneous repair work on a rail-road barrier, resulting in faulty connections within the automated signalling system.

Unveiling the Details of the Incident

The catastrophe occurred when a passenger train collided with a stationary freight train, derailing and subsequently striking another passenger train approaching from the opposite direction. The Commission of Railway Safety (CRS) investigators, as documented in the probe report obtained by Reuters, attributed the initial collision to modifications made to the signalling circuit in an attempt to address recurring issues with a nearby rail-road barrier.

Negligence and Lack of Standard Procedures

According to the report, the local railway staff responsible for the repairs lacked access to a standard circuit diagram, which ultimately led to a flawed connection in the signalling system when they endeavored to temporarily disable the boom-barrier circuit for maintenance. As a result, the malfunctioning system erroneously directed the passenger train onto the path of the freight train, culminating in the catastrophic collision.

Focus on Repair Work and Manual Bypass

Prior to the publication of the official probe report, Reuters had previously shed light on the investigators’ focus on the repair work carried out on the rail-road barrier and its potential correlation with a manual bypass of the signalling system. This preliminary information hinted at a critical aspect of the incident that required thorough investigation.

Indian Railways and Safety Concerns

Indian Railways, ranked as the world’s fourth largest train network, operates as a state monopoly overseen by the Railway Board, which reports directly to the Railways Ministry. In recent times, the railway system has been undergoing a significant transformation, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi spearheading a massive $30 billion infrastructure and connectivity project. Despite this ambitious endeavor, the tragic rail disaster has raised pertinent questions regarding the attention devoted to ensuring passenger safety.

Lapses and Non-Compliance with Standard Operating Procedures

The CRS probe report highlights several lapses within the signal and telecom department, as well as a failure to adhere to standard operating procedures during the repair work. These critical oversights played a pivotal role in exacerbating the situation, ultimately leading to the devastating consequences witnessed on that fateful day.


The rail disaster in Bahanaga Bazar serves as a somber reminder of the grave consequences that can arise from negligence and oversight in maintenance and repair work. As India’s rail network undergoes substantial development, prioritizing safety measures and implementing stringent protocols becomes paramount. It is imperative that the lessons learned from this tragic incident pave the way for enhanced safety standards, ensuring the well-being of passengers and the prevention of future disasters.

Keywords: India rail disaster, automated signalling system, rail-road barrier, faulty connections, official probe, Commission of Railway Safety, Odisha, infrastructure, connectivity, negligence, lapses, safety standards.

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