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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

‘Amritsar tragedy was due to trespassing, not railways fault; no action against driver’

Minister of state for railways Manoj Sinha said there was no negligence on the part of the railways, and the driver could not have seen the crowds due to a curve in the tracks. The Railway Board said it would not conduct an inquiry since it wasn’t a “railway accident”.

india Updated: Oct 20, 2018 20:29 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
New Delhi
A man cries as he stands next to the burning pyre of a family member who was crushed to death on the rail tracks on Friday, at a cremation ground in Amritsar, on October 20, 2018.
A man cries as he stands next to the burning pyre of a family member who was crushed to death on the rail tracks on Friday, at a cremation ground in Amritsar, on October 20, 2018. (Reuters)
         

Minister of state for railways, Manoj Sinha, on Saturday ruled out any punitive action against the driver of the train that mowed down Dussehra revellers in Amritsar, saying there was no negligence on the part of the national transporter. The Railway Board also said Friday’s tragedy was not a “railway accident” but a case of trespassing on rail tracks.

“The incident was not a railways’ fault. There was no lapse on our part and no action against the driver will be initiated. People should refrain from organising such events near tracks in future. I think if precaution had been taken, the accident could have been averted,” Sinha said, adding that the railways had no intimation about the event. Wherever such events are held, the district administration concerned gives permission, he said.

“There was a curve. The driver couldn’t have seen it. What should we order an inquiry about? Trains travel in speed only,” Sinha said. Drivers are given specific instructions on where to slow down the train, he added.

Vivek Kumar, the divisional railway manager, Ferozpur, said the driver had been questioned but no lapse could be found at his end. The train had been travelling at a speed of 91 kmph but had slowed down to 68 kmph before the first impact when a crowd was spotted on the track

“People were trespassing the railway lines when the incident took place. Due to darkness and sound of firecrackers, the people could not hear the sound of train. The driver did not see the crowd earlier as there was a curve. The driver tried to apply brakes and minimize the speed to the train running at 90 kmph but it takes time to stop the train,” Kumar said. During questioning, the driver said he had tried to stop the train but couldn’t.

‘Not an accident, but trespassing’

The Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) said it will not probe the Amritsar tragedy, with Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani saying it was not a “railway accident” but a case of trespassing on rail tracks.

The Commission of Railway Safety works under the administrative control of the ministry of civil aviation and conducts mandatory inquiry into all railway accidents – at unmanned level crossings, derailments or after a bridge collapse.

“The Commission conducts statutory investigation into railway accidents. This was an incident where people were trespassing on the tracks and not an accident,” Lohani said.

Lohani had said the mishap occurred at a stretch between two stations – Amritsar and Manawala – and not at a level crossing. “At midsections, trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to be on the tracks. At midsections, there is no railway staff posted. We have staff at level crossings whose job is to regulate traffic,” he said, explaining why the railways was not alerted about the congregation by its staff.

First Published: Oct 20, 2018 20:13 IST

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