The three-member committee appointed by the Transport Ministry to investigate the Alawwa train accident today said the collision had taken place as train signals and speed limits were not respected by the train driver and that there were no defects in the train engine or the brake system.
Committee member and Arthur C. Clarke Institute CEO Sanath Panawennage said when the approach signal turns amber the train is expected to slow down but instead the driver in the S11 train had applied brakes traveling at 80kmph. He said the maximum train speed however is 72kmph. He said this information was clearly depicted in the engine’s train locker which indicates the speed at which the train runs.
He also said had there not been a train stopped at the platform the collision would not have taken place. “No technical defect led to this train accident. The brake system, train signals and the engine worked well. It is that the train signals and maximum speed limits had not been respected by the driver and this is what led to the collision,” Mr. Panawennage said.
The committee recommended that the distance between the approach signal and admission signal which is 1.5 km should be repositioned in order to eliminate the drivers’ policy of driving fast between the two signals. The committee further recommended that in a situation where a train is hauling another train there, the driver and assistant driver should be informed in writing beforehand.
Mr. Panawennage said it was found during inquiries that communication among drivers, train guards, train controllers and other railway officials was inadequate. He added that there were complaints that signal lights were not visible and that steps should be taken to make them more visible. The committee had received evidence from 23 railway officials including drivers, engineers and railway unions.
The Alawwa train accident which took place on September 17 killed three people including the train driver, assistant driver and a foreigner. Railways General Manager B.A.P. Ariyaratne said the Railway Department incurred a loss of Rs.75 million. The committee appointed to investigate the train collision also included retired Supreme Court judge Justice Nimal Dissanayake and retired Deputy IGP P.A Sarath Perera. (Olindhi Jayasundere)