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Drivers watching cricket on a phone when Indian train crashed

Fatal collision in Andhra Pradesh state came after the drivers missed a signal and slammed into another train
Fatal collision came after the drivers missed a signal and slammed into another train - PTI

The drivers of a train that crashed last year, killing 14 people and injuring dozens more, were distracted because they were watching cricket on a phone, India’s railways minister has said.

The fatal collision in Andhra Pradesh state in October came after the drivers, known as pilots, missed a signal and slammed into another train. At the time, India were playing England during the one-day cricket World Cup.

Both crew members died in the crash.

“The recent case in Andhra Pradesh happened because both the loco-pilot and co-pilot were distracted by the cricket match,” Ashwini Vaishnaw, minister of railways, said.

“Now we are installing systems which can detect any such distraction and make sure that the pilots and the assistant pilots are fully focused on running the train.”

Hundreds of millions of fans in cricket-crazy India tuned in to watch the live broadcast of the World Cup match, which the hosts won.

The incident prompted a renewed focus on safety measures on India’s railways to prevent such incidents in the future.

Mr Vaishnaw said: “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.”

Separately, officials sacked the station master and three other employees after a runaway freight train travelled 40 miles without a driver last month, the Hindustan Times reported.

The men were removed from their posts for negligence after some 50 carriages barrelled on solo for close to two hours.

India has one of the world’s largest rail networks and has seen several disasters over the years, the worst in 1981 when a train derailed while crossing a bridge in Bihar state, killing an estimated 800 people.

In June 2023, a three-train collision killed nearly 300 people in Odisha state.

In recent years India has been investing huge sums of money to upgrade the network with modern stations and electronic signalling systems.