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Train to skirt forest lines
- Express diverted to avoid animal deaths on tracks

Alipurduar, July 4: The railway department has decided to divert the weekly Sampark Kranti Express to the main line via Falakata and New Cooch Behar to avoid collision with wild animals on the Alipurduar Junction-Siliguri Junction route.

The super fast train that runs between Guwahati and New Delhi will take the new route from September 1.

The decision to divert the express was taken at a meeting between officials of forest and railway departments at Rajabhatkhawa today.

Veerendra Kumar, the divisional railway manager of Alipurduar, said: “We have decided that the Sampark Kranti Express will be diverted to the main line from September 1. Once laying of double tracks in the main line is complete, more trains would be diverted through that route.”

This is the first time that a super fast train is being diverted since the Alipurduar-Siliguri track was converted into broad gauge in 2003.

Sampark Kranti Express halts at two places, New Jalpaiguri and Bongaigaon, during its entire journey and wildlife enthusiasts have been demanding the diversion of such non-stop trains and goods carriages from the forested areas to avoid accidents.

The 168km-stretch between Alipurduar Junction and Siliguri Junction is through Buxa Tiger Reserve, Jaldapara National Park, Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary, Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary and Gorumara National Park. Since 2004, 54 elephants have died on tracks on the route along with five bison and two leopards and in 65 per cent of the cases, the animals were hit by goods trains. On July 1, two elephants were mowed down by an empty army special train.

“We have received Rs 2 crore from the ministry of environment and forest. We have constructed ramps in Jaldapara and Chapramari (concrete elevated passages across tracks) and work to put up guard walls in Mahananda is on,” Kumar said.

The Delhi-bound Sampark Kranti Express will take the main line from Samuktala Road station and the Guwahati-bound train will be diverted from New Jalpaiguri Junction.

Sanjib Sundhrial, the field director of BTR, said: “We are looking at better co-ordination and laying stress on cleaning up the bushes on both sides of the tracks and the railways would do that.”