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Panic in Duronto after air pipe snaps

Barakar, Feb. 12: The air pipe of a coach of the Howrah-bound Duronto Express from Delhi got detached while the train was running at 110kmph through Burdwan today, with officials saying derailment was possible had the pipe got entangled with the wheels instead of falling on the tracks.

The air pipes and reservoirs of the next six coaches got damaged after hitting the pipe that fell on the tracks as the train braked and came to an unscheduled halt midway through Barakar station in the Asansol division of Eastern Railway around 5.50am.

As the damaged pipes scraped the floor, stones ricocheted off the tracks and hit two persons.

The guard, S.K. Singh, pulled the emergency brakes after he heard the loud noise of scraping. “The noise was coming from below the coaches. I realised something was wrong and immediately pulled the emergency brakes,” he said.

Railway officials said the air pipes and air reservoirs were part of the braking system.

“When the driver wants to stop the train, he applies the brakes, creating a vacuum in the pipes and reservoirs. Seven coaches of the Duronto could not longer be controlled with the brakes as the pipe of one bogie came loose and those of the six behind it got damaged,” a railway official said in Asansol.

A.K. Shukla, the additional divisional railway manager of the Asansol division, said: “The affected coaches could have derailed had the detached air pipe got entangled with the wheels. Thankfully, the train could be stopped.”

The stones that ricocheted off the tracks hit Shakti Prasad, a tea vendor on the Barakar platform, and S.G. Bauri, a railway worker. They suffered minor injuries.

The passengers, most of whom were sleeping, were woken up by the loud noise and panicked.

Sunil Bhandari, a Howrah resident who had boarded the train in Delhi, said: “I was jolted out of sleep by a screeching sound. I panicked, as did the other passengers,”

He alleged that “an unusual sound” was coming from the coupling between the coaches since the train began its journey yesterday.

Another passenger, S. Raja, said the train had been swaying since it left Delhi.

Shukla, the additional divisional railway manager, declined comment on such claims. He said a probe had been ordered into the accident.

A team of engineers led by senior divisional mechanical engineer Suman Raj from Asansol, 35km from Barakar, inspected the accident site and repaired the air pipes temporarily. The train left Barakar at 10.16am and reached Howrah travelling at a maximum speed of 60kmph.

A section of railway officials said the accident was a pointer to poor maintenance. “Air pipes should not come loose or snap if they are properly maintained and checked before a train starts its journey,” a senior railway official in Asansol said.