New Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani engine develops snag, derails

"Two front wheels of the engine derailed around 9.25 a.m. near Baruipara station, about 27 km from Howrah," said Eastern Railway chief public relations officer (CPRO) Samir Goswami.

Though Goswami initially claimed that sabotage could not be ruled out as 300 pandrol clips (used to fix the rail firmly to the sleeper) were found removed, later in the day Eastern Railway general manager V.N. Tripathy confirmed that the accident prima facie resulted from "part of the engine coming loose".

"Some part of the engine came loose and due to its friction with the track, the track got damaged and the pandrol clips came out," Tripathy said after visiting the site on the Howrah-Burdwan line of Eastern Railway. He said a four member high-level committee has been formed to probe the mishap.

The panel comprises G.C. Agarwal, principal chief engineer, A.K. Sinha, chief mechanical engineer, Ranajit Mitra, chief electrical engineer and G. Jha, chief safety officer of Eastern Railway.

Director General of police (Rail) Dilip Mitra said the driver applied the emergency brake after he heard a sound and experienced a jerk.

"So the wheels got derailed. I have been told by railway officials that if the emergency brake is applied when the train is in high speed, as was the case today (Monday), the pandrol clips come out due to the vibration," Mitra told IANS.

The stranded passengers, brought to Howrah by an empty EMU (electrical multiple unit) train, seemed shaken. "After what happened (rail tragedies) in the last two-three months, people are now becoming frightened of train rides," said a middle-aged passenger. 

Another passenger thanked the driver for applying the brake in time and saving lives. "Had he not acted in time since a part of the engine had come loose, there would have been a catastrophe." West Bengal has witnessed two major train disasters since May.

On July 19, 63 train passengers were killed after the Sealdah-bound Uttar Banga Express rammed into the stationary Vananchal Express at Sainthia station in Birbhum district.

The Sainthia mishap occurred 52 days after the Gyaneshwari Express tragedy on May 28, in which 148 people were killed after Maoist guerrillas cut open the pandrol clips of the track near Jhargram in West Midnapore district. A freight train approaching from the opposite direction rammed into five derailed coaches, resulting in the high casualties.

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