Dozens of train passengers had a narrow escape at Ernakulam Junction on Saturday when the Thiruvananthapuram-Kozhikode Jan Shatabdi Express began moving, even as passengers were boarding the train.
The incident caused a literal stampede at the platform. Many, including women and the elderly had a close shave after they lost balance and fell on the platform as the train picked up speed. A woman and her infant child narrowly missed getting caught between the train and the platform as she held on to the train’s door handle and ran along with the train. She let go of the handle only after fellow passengers shouted at her. A combination of slackness of the Railway’s operational staff and their over zealousness in abiding by the five-minute stoppage time is being blamed for the incident.
“Higher-ups have not paid heed to our repeated requests to increase the stoppage time of this train and a few others at Ernakulam,” said a senior Railway official.
As per the timetable, the train has to arrive here at 9.15 a.m. and leave at 9.20 a.m.
Sixty-six-year-old Mohammed, a heart patient, was among those who were caught in the melee. “A whole lot of people got down from the train and a similar number was waiting in the queue to board it. The train began moving even as people were on the doorsteps of coaches. Some had a foot on the step and another on the platform,” he said.
“There was not a hint that the train would leave the station. We could not hear the siren either. The train’s guard and platform staff should have ensured that the train waited for a minute or even more, till everyone boarded their coaches,” Mr Mohammed said.
He was travelling to Kozhikode after undergoing treatment at the Amritha Hospital here.
Most passengers managed to board the train as the train halted a little away from the platform.
Another passenger Ratheesh Kumar said that the train arrived at the station a few minutes late.
“I was among the few who shouted and told passengers within the train to pull the chain.”
He was travelling with his grandparents to Kozhikode. Even worse was in store for him as he narrated his misery to three travelling ticket examiners.
“They were even more callous than the operational crew and blamed me for boarding the train without giving a written complaint. It was a free-for-all situation and no Railway official was there to tender an apology.”
Mr. Ratheesh Kumar wondered how Railways, which did not show any leniency to passengers at Ernakulam, detained the train at Shornur for over 30 minutes.
“Such trains must stop at busy stations like Ernakulam for one or two minutes more. This was for the first time in my life that I encountered such an experience. The station would have witnessed a carnage if the train did not stop a little away, as a few people could have been caught between the train and the platform,” he said.
Sources in the Railway said that the train’s guard was often unable to see coaches at the other end. There was no one at the platform to ensure that everyone boarded the train, a source said.
Most fatal accidents take place when passengers slip and fall while trying to enter or alight from a moving train. This time, the fault was with the Railways though.