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Railway gets High Court notice on Assam hill railway safety

Train coaches are seen toppled over following mudslides triggered by heavy rains at New Haflong railway station on the Lumding-Silchar route at Dima Hasao district, in northeastern Assam on May 16.

Train coaches are seen toppled over following mudslides triggered by heavy rains at New Haflong railway station on the Lumding-Silchar route at Dima Hasao district, in northeastern Assam on May 16. | Photo Credit: AP

GUWAHATI The Gauhati High Court on Wednesday asked the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) to explain why a report of the Commissioner of Railway Safety in 2015 was not implemented for a landslide-prone arterial broad-gauge track connecting southern Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura.

The 170-km-long track connecting Lumding and Badarpur across Dima Hasao district was damaged in at least 56 stretches following landslips induced by heavy rainfall in May. Indian Air Force choppers had to be engaged to rescue some stranded passengers.

Hearing a public interest litigation filed by Silchar-based Baharul Islam Barbhuiya, the court of acting Chief Justice N. Kotiswar Singh and Justice Soumitra Saikia asked the Railways why the non-implementation of the safety report was not investigated.

It also sought to know whether the seven-year-old suggestions of the Commissioner of Railway Safety was being incorporated in the ongoing ₹180-crore track restoration work and whether geotechnical experts have been engaged for a safer alignment.

“The court gave the Railways four weeks to respond,” Fazluzzaman Majumdar, the petitioner’s counsel said.

The conversion of the Dima Hasao railway line, of 1899 vintage, from metre-gauge to broad-gauge was sanctioned in 1996-97. It was declared a national project in 2004 and was opened for passenger train services from November 2015.

During the course of the conversion work, the principal director of audit in his theme-based audit report had warned the Railway authorities that the project, started without adequate geotechnical investigation, could be derailed due to faulty planning and failure to visualise the soil strata behaviour.

Later, a report of the Commissioner of Railway Safety underlined major loopholes that required to be addressed prior to operating passenger trains on the track. The report said the provision of Section 22(1) of the Railway Act of 1989 had not been substantially complied with for the newly constructed broad-gauge track to be opened for passenger traffic.

The petition also said the NFR started restoration work with the ₹180 crore sanctioned by the Centre without “depth mapping of both topographical and geological status of slide-prone areas”. It thus sought a high-level inquiry to find out why the safety measures suggested by the Commissioner of Railway Safety were ignored and preventive action was not taken before reopening the track for passenger trains.


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Printable version | Aug 5, 2022 10:55:22 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/railway-gets-high-court-notice-on-assam-hill-railway-safety/article65507600.ece