The Indian Railways have admitted there were ground-level lapses which caused the horrendous train crash in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh killing at least 24 and injuring 156 others, many of them seriously.

The Hindustan Times reported that at least 15 metres of track had been removed and was being replaced when the ill-fated train appeared. The workers are said to have fled for their lives leaving behind maintenance equipment.

As many as 13 carriages of the Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express jumped off the tracks on Saturday, 19 August near the town of Khatauli. Such was the impact of the derailment that one of the carriages crashed into a house in a railway colony next to the tracks.

"When we did a site inspection, we saw some equipment of the railways used for track repair present there," Mohammed Jamshed, a senior railways officer, said.

"During our visit to the accident site, we found that some repair equipment was kept on the track side. One reason could be that there was some repair work going on and precaution may not have been taken."

Some reports quoting locals said the driver of the train was not informed of the repair work that was going on.

The government is also probing a purported audio clip allegedly between local railway officials admitting potential negligence in the maintenance work. Indian Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has vowed to fix responsibility for the accident.

"Restoration is top priority. Seven coaches tackled. Also ensuring best possible medical care for the injured. monitoring situation closely," Prabhu wrote in a tweet and in another said: "Will not allow laxity in operations by the Board. Have directed CRB to fix responsibility on prima facie evidence by end of day."

A preliminary charge sheet has been filed mentioning death by negligence, mischief and destruction of railway property.

There have been many accidents involving Indian trains, often seen as the country's lifeline. Official figures show over 580 train accidents, more than half of them derailments, took place in the past five years. One of the worst accidents occurred in November 2016 killing more than 150 people.

India train derailment Uttar Pradesh
Local residents gather next to train carriages after an express train derailed near the town of Khatauli in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on August 19, 2017 AFP/Getty Images