At least 22 persons were killed and 26 injured when the Goa Express rammed the Mewar Express at Banjana on the Mathura-Vrindavan section of the Northern Railway in Uttar Pradesh early on Wednesday.
Even as the Udaipur-Nizamuddin Mewar Express resumed its journey after an eight-minute halt following chain pulling, the Goa Express, also bound for Nizamuddin from Vasco Da Gama, rammed it from behind with full force. In the fateful 15 minutes, either the Goa Express did not heed the signal at Banjana or the signal itself failed, it is said. (A Lucknow report, quoting Agra divisional manager R.K. Tripathi, said the Goa Express driver missed the signal.)
The rear coach of the Mewar Express bore the brunt of the collision. Two coaches went off the rails. The casualties occurred mostly aboard the Mewar Express, with 19 passengers and guard S.K. Puri killed. In the other train, two persons were killed in the pantry car. It was not immediately known whether they were railway staff or passengers.
Several of the injured succumbed to their injuries in hospital. The condition of 13 others was said to be serious. Most of the injured have since been shifted to Delhi.
The rescue operations, launched by locals, gained momentum with the arrival of police. The Army unit at Mathura — comprising electrical and mechanical engineers and a medical corps — was involved in the rescue work along with railway teams which arrived from Agra and Delhi.
After the two damaged bogies were detached, the Mewar Express reached Delhi at 12.45 p.m. Arrangements were made to transport passengers of the Goa Express to either Mathura or Delhi.
The rail lines were restored by 2 p.m. and railway authorities claimed that traffic was normal.
Goa Express driver R.K. Chaturvedi and assistant driver Laxmi Kant were placed under suspension and taken off duty, pending completion of an enquiry to be held by P.K. Vajpayee, Commissioner of Railway Safety, North Eastern Circle (Civil Aviation Department), Lucknow.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, who ordered the enquiry, expressed her condolences to the bereaved. She announced an ex gratia of Rs. 5 lakh to the families of each of the deceased, Rs. 1 lakh each to the critically injured, and Rs.10,000 to those with simple injuries.
Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed supervised the rescue operations.
Chain pulling to blame?
Raktima Bose reports from Kolkata:
Speaking to journalists in Kolkata, Ms. Banerjee said a report that chain pulling might have caused the accident was being investigated..
“I have received the prima facie report. There is a mention of an incident of chainpulling but whether that caused the accident or not cannot be said right now.” A safety committee meeting would be held on Thursday.