Drivers of train involved in deadly crash were ‘distracted’ by India vs England cricket match

The drivers of a passenger train that rammed into a stationary locomotive in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh in October last year were “distracted” watching a cricket match on the phone.

The crash resulted in the death of at least 14 people.

The Indian Railways minister revealed on Saturday that the drivers of the Palasa passenger train that hit the Rayagada passenger train from behind at Kantakapalli, about 40km from Visakhapatnam on 29 October at 7pm, were watching the India vs England match during the men’s cricket World Cup on a phone.

The ramming caused three coaches to derail and led to the death of at least 14 and injuries to dozens of passengers.

Railways minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told the Press Trust of India: “The recent case in Andhra Pradesh happened because both the loco pilot and co-pilot were distracted by the cricket match which was going on.”

He added “now we are installing systems which can detect any such distraction and make sure that the pilots and the assistant pilots are fully focussed on running the train. We will continue to put our focus on safety. We try to find out the root cause of every incident and we come up with a solution so that it is not repeated”.

The drivers also lost their lives in the accident.

Meanwhile, the day following the collision in October, an initial investigation by the railway authorities found the driver and the assistant driver of the passenger train at fault for violating norms by passing two malfunctioning automatic signals.

The investigation report by the Commissioners of Railway Safety (CRS) has not yet been released to the public.

“Likely reason: Human error. Overshooting of the signal by Visakhapatnam-Rayagada passenger train,” Biswajit Sahu, chief public relations officer (CPRO) of the East Coast Railway told reporters at the time.

In a separate incident, more recently a freight train was able to travel some 80km without a driver. The train was pulling 53 wagons full of chip stones when it started rolling downhill along the tracks at Kathua in Jammu, northern India, at one point reaching a top speed of 100km/h before it could be stopped.

The train had stopped for a crew change in Kathua, during which the driver and assistant disembarked, when it began to move downhill.

Indian railways has one of the vast networks of trains which transports millions everyday. However, there have been some major accidents. Among the most catastrophic incidents in recent history was a derailment in Bihar in 1981, claiming the lives of nearly 800 people.

Last year in June, collision of three trains in the eastern state of Odisha resulted in the deaths of up to 300 people.