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Scare on tracks as driver ‘jumps’ signal

The driver of the Sealdah-Lalgola Passenger allegedly jumped a red signal and came within 100m of a packed stationary train on the same tracks near Sealdah station on Thursday morning.

The driver applied the emergency brakes and averted a head-on collision when the control room alerted him over walkie-talkie about the Sealdah-bound Bongaon local that had stopped at a signal.

Seven minutes and 500m after the Lalgola Passenger left platform seven at 8.10am, personnel at the control room saw on the monitoring panel the train heading towards the stationary one, Eastern Railway officials said.

The officials said the train was moving slowly, about 10kmph, towards Bidhannagar Road station.

A preliminary probe revealed that the driver had jumped a signal 400m from the platform. A “full inquiry” has been ordered.

Driver Asit Hore, assistant driver P. Sil and guard Sujit Sarkar have been charged with negligence and suspended.

“The control room alerted the driver over walkie-talkie and he applied the emergency brakes. Had it not stopped, a head-on collision with the local train was imminent,” said Suchitto Kumar Das, divisional railway manager, Sealdah, Eastern Railway.

“Since the train was moving at 10kmph, the impact in case of a collision would have been less. No major disaster would have happened,” an official said.

Hore apparently claimed that the signal was yellow, indicating that the train could move at a slow speed. Officials at the signalling department alleged that the driver was lying.

“The idea was to vacate the platform for another train, stop the Lalgola Passenger at a signal and let the Bongaon local pass. But the driver’s error led to a near-miss,” the official said.

Witnesses said passengers standing at the doors of the overcrowded Bongaon local raised the alarm when they saw the Lalgola Passenger heading towards them. “Many people panicked and jumped out of the train,” said a railway employee. “The passenger train had only a few people on board.”

The signalling system at Howrah, Sealdah and other major junctions are controlled by a route relay interlocking (RRI) system.

“Apart from the automated signalling system, the RRI provides a safety cushion for the trains. Unless a train vacates a particular track, no other train can enter it. If a driver jumps a signal, the train will be shunted automatically to avert a collision,” a railway official said.

The signal turns green only when the track till the next signal plus an adequate distance is clear.

For engines or an empty rake moving in and out of a platform, a subsidiary signal is used. “The calling-on signal doesn’t provide that additional safe distance and shunt a train to another track,” the official added.

On Thursday, the subsidiary system was in place when the passenger train pulled out of the station because of rush-hour traffic.

Man attacked

Armed youths allegedly backed by the CPM attacked the house of Mustafa Sapui, a Trinamul leader at Sitakundu in Baruipur, on Wednesday. CPM leaders denied that party cadres were involved.

In a complaint lodged with Baruipur police station on Thursday evening, Sapui alleged that the attackers had hurled bombs at his house. No one has been arrested.