Jan. 16: Barely a day before senior railway officials were to arrive in Malda for a high-level meeting on safety, Hatey Bazare Express hit the Howrah-bound Kamrup Express at Jangipur station in the Malda division of Eastern Railway early today.
Though no one suffered injuries, it was a close call for the hundreds of passengers travelling on both trains.
The near-mishap was the latest in a spurt of accidents, mostly derailments, in the Malda division in recent months.
The tail end of the stationary Kamrup Express was still on the tracks when Hatey Bazare, travelling in the opposite direction, entered the “single line” Azimganj-Barharwa section. Hatey Bazare hit the guard’s coach of the Kamrup Express before jolting to a halt around 4 in the morning.
Eastern Railway general manager Sunil Chandra Sengupta is scheduled to review safety measures at a meeting in Malda tomorrow.
The railway brass acted swiftly today, suspending five employees for the accident. The assistant station master of Jangipur, the drivers of both trains, the traffic inspector and the guard of Kamrup Express were dropped.
“It is not a major incident. It was purely the fault of Kamrup Express’ guard and he has been suspended,” said divisional railway manager Vijay Kumar Manglik, who rushed to Jangipur.
Several senior divisional railway officials said they were relieved that a major mishap was averted. “Both trains escaped what could have been a major accident. We have initiated an inquiry to find out how this happened,” said divisional commercial manager Koushal Kishore.
Angry passengers demonstrated and stalled train services at Jangipur station for nearly an hour to protest what they called the railway’s indifference towards the safety of the passengers.
“This was the fourth time passengers travelling through north Bengal had a narrow escape…You never know what will happen tomorrow,” Prashanta Burman, a passenger of Kamrup Express, said.
“We were jolted out of sleep. First, we did not realise what had caused the shakeup, then somebody said a train had hit us from behind,” said Pranab Agarwal, another Kamrup passenger.
In a press release, the railway claimed there was “no damage” to the trains but local officials said Hatey Bazare’s engine was damaged on impact. The engine had to be replaced after the train arrived in Malda, two hours behind schedule.
Railway sources said the guard of the Kamrup Express must have been “asleep” when the accident occurred. “It could be the only reason why the guard had failed to notice that his coach was still on the tracks on which Hatey Bazare was to travel in a short while,” they said.