It was the alertness and prompt action of nine pantry staffers that helped save lives of hundreds of passengers on board the burning Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani train yesterday, a feat for which the Railways has rewarded them with a princely sum of Rs 3,000 collectively.

As the blaze started from the pantry car at 2.20 AM and was about to spread to adjoining coaches, the staff of Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) pulled the chain, alerted the sleeping passengers in the other coaches and helped them get off the train, said railway officials.

They also delinked the burning coaches from rest of the train which helped in averting a major disaster.

The fire spread to the three coaches – B-5, B-6 and B-7 - but nobody was injured as the passengers had got off by then, they said.

The railways have rewarded the nine staffers of the IRCTC with Rs 3,000 as a “token gesture”, Sanjay Jain, Group General Manager of IRCTC told PTI. There were total 30 pantry staffers in the train at that time.

At the same time, Railways gave Rs 10.6 lakh to 212 passengers (Rs 5,000 per passenger) as ex-gratia for the inconvenience and loss of baggage due to the fire in the 12951 Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani.

Railways sought to play down the issue, with a senior official saying the “token” reward was given at the level of Divisional Railways Manager and a higher award cannot be announced pending inquiry into the incident.

“The cause of the fire in the pantry car is yet to be ascertained,” the official said.

Railways have ordered an inquiry to be conducted by Commissioner Railway Safety (CRS) Chetan Bakshi. Four bogies including the pantry car were completely gutted in the fire.

“CRS has reached the site an inquiry process is already underway, said the official.