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Kanchanjunga Express – Goods Train Collision, 15 Killed

Kanchanjunga Express – Goods Train Collision, 15 Killed

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 17: At least 15 people, including three railway employees, were killed and about 60 others injured as a goods train collided from behind against the Sealdah-bound Kanchanjunga Express near Rangapani station, seven kilometres from New Jalpaiguri junction, in West Bengal on Monday, police said.

Three rear compartments of the express train derailed under the impact of the collision from behind by the locomotive of the goods train, railway officials said. The guard of the Kanchanjunga Express and the driver and assistant driver of the goods train were the railway staff killed in the accident.

Three coaches of Kanchanjunga Express were derailed in the crash. One factor which limited casualties is the fact that the rear part of Kanchanjunga Express comprised of the parcel coach and the guard’s coach and the passenger compartments further ahead suffered less impact.

According to the information so far, the goods train overshot the signal and crashed into the Kanchanjunga Express. Teams of the National Disaster Response Force and ambulances have been rushed to the spot.

The Chairman and CEO Railway Board Jaya Varma Sinha, also confirmed it. “Prime facie, it seems the container train overshot the signal and collided with the rear portion of the stationary Kanchanjunga train. Human error seems to be the cause. The first indications suggest that this is a case of signal disregard. Kavach needs to be proliferated and planned for West Bengal,” she said.

She said the accident took place around 9 am. “The rescue work is complete. The injured have been shifted to the North Bengal medical college and they are being provided the best possible treatment,” she said. The toll could rise, as multiple agencies of the State and Centre were simultaneously working on a war footing along with locals to rescue passengers who could still be trapped inside.

Kanchanjunga Express was travelling from Agartala in Tripura to Sealdah in Kolkata. The Kanchanjunga Express is a daily train that connects Bengal with the Northeastern cities of Silchar and Agartala. This route is in the Chicken’s Neck corridor, which connects the Northeast with the rest of the country. The accident on this line can potentially impact the movement of several other trains.

The Kanchanjunga Express is frequently used by tourists to travel to Darjeeling. The accident comes at a time when Kolkata and neighbouring south Bengal are reeling under a sultry summer and many are travelling to the hill station for some relief.

The railways’ automatic anti-collision train protection system, “Kavach” was not in place along the Guwahati-Delhi route, where the goods train collided with the Kanchanjunga Express, a top official said. Chairperson of the Railway Board admitted that anti-collision system Kavach was being planned for the route. “It is not there right now.”

A scheduled operational procedure at Lumding, which involves a direction reversal for trains passing through the station, turned into a life-altering event for passengers in the front and last coaches of the Kanchanjunga Express.

A passenger in a sleeper coach located in the middle of the rake said, “The affected coaches were in the front till Lumding.” He explained that after the direction reversal, the affected four coaches — a general seating coach, two parcel vans, and a guard van — were at the rear end. The general seating coach was the most affected, being thrown onto adjacent tracks, he added.

“Our train was moving very slowly when it reached Rangapani, a few kilometres from New Jalpaiguri,” the passenger recounted, standing beside one of the mangled coaches. Another passenger described a sudden, sharp jerk accompanied by a loud sound, and the train stopped abruptly. Upon disembarking, he saw that the goods train had hit their rake from behind. “We were having tea when the train stopped suddenly with a jerk,” he said. A pregnant woman, travelling with her family, said she fell off her seat upon impact.

The unaffected front portion of Kanchenjunga Express later left the site and resumed its onward journey towards Sealdah, Ms Varma said. Several long distance trains on the route have either been cancelled or diverted on other lines, a railway spokesman said.

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said doctors and disaster response teams have been rushed to the spot. “Shocked to learn, just now, about a tragic train accident, in Phansidewa area of Darjeeling district. While details are awaited, Kanchenjunga Express has reportedly been hit by a goods train. DM, SP, doctors, ambulances and disaster teams have been rushed to the site for rescue, recovery, medical assistance. Action on war-footing initiated,” she posted on X.

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw visited the train accident site in Rangapani. The Minister, who reached West Bengal to take stock of relief operations after the accident, announced an ex-gratia of ₹10 lakh each to the next of kin of those killed in the train accident in West Bengal.

President Droupadi Murmu said the news of loss of lives in the train accident was “deeply distressing”. My thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families. I pray for the speedy recovery of the injured and success of relief and rescue operations,” she said in a post on X.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences for the families of those killed in the accident. “The railway accident in West Bengal is saddening. Condolences to those who lost their loved ones. I pray that the injured recover at the earliest. Spoke to officials and took stock of the situation. Rescue operations are underway to assist the affected. The Railways Minister Shri @AshwiniVaishnaw Ji is on the way to the site of the mishap as well,” he posted on X.

The Prime Minister’s Office has announced a compensation of ₹ 2 lakh each for the families of those killed and an assistance of ₹ 50,000 for those injured in the accident.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said he was extremely distressed by the train accident. “The scenes of the accident are painful. Our heart goes out to the families of the victims. In this hour of grief, we express our solidarity and condolences to each one of them. We wish a speedy recovery to the injured. Immediate and full compensation must be provided to the victims,” he said.

Mr Kharge alleged that the Narendra Modi government “has indulged in the utter mismanagement of the Railway Ministry.” “As a responsible Opposition, it is our bounden duty to underline how the Modi Govt has systematically converted the Rail Ministry into a platform of ‘Camera-driven’ self-promotion! Today’s tragedy is yet another reminder of this stark reality,” he said.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, too, expressed his condolences. “I request Congress workers to provide support to the rescue work.” Train accidents in the last 10 years, he said, were the result of Narendra Modi government’s mismanagement and negligence. “Today’s accident is another example of this reality. As a responsible Opposition, we will keep raising questions on this scary negligence and make the government accountable.”

Congress MP Deepender Singh Hooda said the party would seek answers from the government in Parliament. “On behalf of the Congress Party, we pay our condolences. We pray for the speedy recovery of all those injured. The increase in railway accidents in the last 10 years is a result of the mismanagement and negligence of the Central Government towards the railways. Due to which, the lives of passengers are being lost every day,” he said.



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