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Cricket match responsible for fatal train crash in India – minister

Last year’s accident in which 14 people died was caused by human error, the government has revealed

The driver of a train and his assistant were busy watching cricket on their mobile phones when it rear-ended another train, causing 14 deaths in southern India last October, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Monday. Vaishnaw highlighted the accident while discussing new safety measures, according to a report in the Times of India.

In October 2023, a passenger train going from Visakhapatnam to Rayagada collided with another train, the Palasa Express, which was en route to Visakhapatnam in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The Vishakhapatnam-Rayagada train was traveling at around 80kph when the accident occurred. At least three cars were derailed in the accident. The authorities cited “human error” as a possible reason for the accident and launched a probe to determine the exact cause. 

On the day of the fatal accident, India was playing England in a group stage match in the 50-over Cricket World Cup – a match it would go on to win by 100 runs.

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The railway minister noted that the train crew was distracted by the cricket match, stating: “We are now implementing systems capable of detecting such distractions to ensure pilots and assistant pilots maintain complete focus on train operations.” The minister reaffirmed the railways’ dedication to safety and vowed to thoroughly investigate the underlying causes of accidents to proactively avert future incidents.

Last year was one of the deadliest for Indian railways, which remains a key means of transportation in the nation of 1.4 billion. More than 12 million people ride 14,000 trains across the country daily. Throughout 2023, at least 17 major train accidents and scores of fatalities were reported in the country. 

In June 2023, nearly 300 people died and 1,200 were injured in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, when the high-speed Coromandel Express (Kolkata to Chennai) crashed into a freight train and its coaches derailed and collided with another high-speed train (the Bengaluru-Howrah Express) coming from the opposite direction. Three railway employees were later charged with homicide and arrested. 


READ MORE: Signal error caused deadly Indian train tragedy – report

The Ministry of Railways, releasing the official findings from a probe into the deadly incident, said a signal error led to the collision. The report concluded that if corrective measures had been taken after a similar failure in 2022, the tragedy could have been prevented. 

More recently, a video of a runaway freight train loaded with gravel went viral on social media. The train was traveling 70km without a driver from the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir to Punjab, before being brought to a halt by wooden blocks on the tracks. An inquiry into the incident has been initiated.


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