‘No reason why the speed of the train cannot be brought down in vulnerable areas’

A Central team headed by S. S. Garbyal, Additional Director-General of Forests (Wildlife), on Saturday visited the State to probe the death of five elephants mowed down by Chennai-bound Coromandel Express in Ganjam district on December 30.

Mr. Garbyal met State Forest and Environment Minister Bijoyshree Routray in the presence of senior wildlife wing officials and to know under which circumstances the accident took place leading to death of five elephants.

After the meet, Mr. Garbyal told reporters, “we don’t see any reason why cannot the speed of train be brought down to 50 km per hour in vulnerable zones. Restriction of train speed is in force in some places in Uttarakhand and Assam.”

“The State government apprised us of the steps being taken to prevent such accidents. We will thoroughly analyse circumstances leading to death of five elephants,” the senior MoEF official said.

He said, “if we feel railways is required to make change in its operation, we would take up the issue with Union Ministry of Railways.” Mr. Garbyal said the accident could have been avoided.

Meanwhile, State Forest and Environment minister reiterated that the East Coast Railways was responsible for the accident. “Had they reduced speed of train in the vulnerable stretch, accident would not have happened,” Mr. Routray said after the meeting with Central team.

The team also visited the accident spot at Subalaya near Rambha station to do a spot assessment of the accident. It is to be noted that both the State government and railway authorities are busy shifting blame over the elephant deaths.

While State government claimed to have informed the railway authorities of elephant herd crossing railway track at Subalaya before the time of accident, Khurda Road Division of East Coast Railway said information reached it exactly when the accident occurred. Khurda Road division also claimed that it had obtained call records which showed the State Forest and Environment department made the only call at 0.43 am on December 30.

East Coast Railway had also refused to reduce the train speed limit in the stretch frequented by elephants saying, “the speed restriction decision would have to be taken in Union Ministry for Railways.” As many as 11 elephants have died coming under wheels of train during past two years.

  • Restriction of train speed is in force in some places in Uttarakhand and Assam: probe official

  • Info on elephants crossing the track received just when the accident occurred: ECoR