At least two people died and more than six injured as a Guwahati-bound train flew off the rails in north Bengal late on Tuesday, bringing the spotlight back on India’s large but poorly maintained rail network.
The railways tweeted that the engine and two coaches of the 13248 Up Rajendra Nagar–Guwahati Capital Express derailed near Samuktala road at around 9.15pm near the West Bengal-Assam border. Two unidentified males have been declared dead while many are injured.
Railway minister Suresh Prabhu ordered an inquiry while the department said the cause of the accident appeared to be due to the driver jumping a red signal.
“The two male passengers who died could not be identified as no identity proof was found from their possession” said Sanjiv Kishor, the divisional railway manager posted at Alipurduar. They were travelling in the general unreserved coach and were probably sitting on the floor of the coach , said another railway official.
“Thorough enquiry will be subsequently conducted and action taken against the guilty,” the northeast frontier railway said.
As the train was moving slowly, the damage caused was minimal. Two coaches- one SLR and one general- jumped the track.
This is the second major accident in as many months, after 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express went off the rails on November 20, killing 145 people – the country’s worst train accident in six years. The accident was blamed on a fracture in the tracks.
About 150 stranded passengers were taken back to Alipurduar Junction by 15772 Kamakhya – Alipurduar Junction Intercity Express. The unaffected portion of the train was detached and pushed back from the site.
India has the fourth largest rail network in the world and carries more than 23 million passengers everyday but is creaking from ageing tracks, poor maintenance and decades of low investment in infrastructure.
The largely colonial-era railway system is saturated and suffers from inefficiencies, fractured tracks and poor signalling equipment that cause accidents.
Indian Railways recorded at least 24 “averted collisions” in five years to August 31 this year. In most cases, alert drivers helped avert collisions.
According to preliminary reports, the Capital Express arrived at Samuktala at 09.05 pm and was put on line number 4 to give way for hte 12424 Rajdhani Express through line number 5 at the station. However, drivers of the Capital Express overshoot the red signal resulting in the derailment.
Kishor said rescue and restoration work was being carried out on one track while trains are being directed through another track. “Hopefully normal services would resume by today afternoon,” said he added.
with agency inputs)