The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Express rides over missing sleepers

Malda, Nov. 6: Barely two weeks after a head-on collision between two trains was averted by metres in north Bengal, passengers of the Malda-bound Gour Express had a narrow escape as it passed over tracks with two missing sleepers minutes before their detection.

Additional divisional railway manager Hemant Kumar said the railway staff inspecting the tracks for damage, a routine affair, found the wooden sleepers missing between Chamagram and Khaltiopur stations around 6.45 am, shortly after the Gour Express, packed with passengers, passed the area and pulled into Malda station. He said the railway had lodged a First Information Report with the Baishnab Nagar police station.

“We are conducting an inquiry to find out whether it was an act of sabotage,” Kumar said. He said it was for the state police to protect the tracks from sabotage and the railway had no role in it.

This is the second time in 15 days that passengers of express trains have managed to escape casualties in Malda division.

Two trains travelling in opposite directions stopped a few metres short of each other on the same track at Bhaluka Road station on October 24.

The north-bound Thiruvananthapuram-Guwahati Express and the Sealdah-bound Teesta Torsa Express had stopped as the desperate motormen braked before jumping from their cabins in panic. The trains were carrying at least a thousand passengers.

On September 19, six coaches of the Sealdah-bound Teesta Torsa Express got derailed near Azimganj, but the passengers were unhurt.

Chamagram station master A.K. Mondal said he alerted the Malda railway control about the missing sleepers the moment the inspecting staff had reported the finding.

The Malda-bound Farakka Express, which had just pulled into Farakka station, was immediately stopped. The packed-to-capacity train, coming from New Delhi, was to pass the area with missing sleepers.

“Anything could have happened if the train had speeded over the tracks. But thankfully, nothing happened because the railway staff spotted the missing sleepers in time,” Kumar said.

Mondal said train services on the Up-line were halted immediately after the missing sleepers were detected. “Some of the Up trains were brought to Malda through the Down line,” he added.

Kumar said train services were halted for more than three hours as railway staff replaced the sleepers. Passengers of Farakka Express sighed with relief as it was given the green light to move towards Malda around 10 am.

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