Train was running 15 km/hour over speed limit, inquiry launched into incident

Hours after three elephants were mowed down by an express train in the Buxa Tiger Reserve of West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district, a bison died after being hit by another train in the same district late on Saturday.

Sumita Ghatak, Divisional Forest Officer, Jalpaiguri, told The Hindu over telephone on Sunday: “The incident occurred in the Odlajhora forest when the Howrah-bound Kanchan Kanya Express hit the animal [when it] was crossing the tracks.”

Meanwhile, the State government and the Railways have given conflicting versions about the death of three elephants.

While the State’s Forest Minister, Hiten Burman, said the train was running at a speed of 70-75 km/hour — as against the permissible limit of 50 km per hour — Minister of State for Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the incident occurred at a place where there are no speed restrictions on trains.

“We have ordered an inquiry into the incident. The report will be placed before Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who will take the matter up with the Railway authorities,” Mr. Burman said.

A meeting of the officials of the Forest and Railway departments will be held on Monday in Alipurduar in the district to discuss the situation and prevent any recurrence, he said.

Mr. Chowdhury said he had directed the officials of the Railway Board to find out whether there were any lapses on the part of Railways officials.

“Ideally, there should be no trains plying through these areas because of the elephant corridor, but if we [adhere to] that then we will loose our connectivity with large areas in north Bengal and the northeastern States,” he said.

Such incidents in north Bengal have shot up since the railway line passing through the region was converted from meter-gauge to broad-gauge in 2004. Since then, more than 30 elephants have been killed while crossing the tracks in the area. Seven elephants were killed in September 2011 after being hit by goods trains in the Banarhat area of the district.