Train journeys becoming hazardous

PATNA Nov. 7. Train journeys have never been comfortable in the Bihar-Jharkhand sector of the Railways. Now, they have become totally unsafe, to say the least, throwing asunder the Raiways' claims of stress on safety measures.

Each day brings to light a number of incidents which only compounds the fear that has crept into the minds of the millions of train passengers, particularly after the ghastly accident of the Rajdhani Express in Rafiganj which claimed about 120 lives a couple of months ago. At least six major accidents were averted in less than 24 hours.

The Railway authorities and the Bihar Government were trying to pass the buck after the Rajdhani incident. Even though the interim report of the Commissioner for Railway Safety stressed on sabotage as the cause for the disaster, the State Government stuck to its stand that poor maintenance of the bridge on the Dhawa River led to the accident.

Even the IB, in its report, is said to have taken the same view, forwarding four reasons for its findings. One, the fishplate which was claimed to have been removed was smaller in size compared to those used on the track. Hence, it was considered as a case of implant. Second, if it had actually been removed the train should have fallen on the right side of the bridge, and not on the left side of the bridge.

Third, under the weight of the engine on the loose end, the other end of the rail would, after being uprooted, shot up, with the result that the engine would never have crossed the bridge as it did. Fourth, there was a crack in one of the pillars of the bridge.

In Chapra, the Gwalior-Barauni Express had crashed into the Amritsar-Barauni Express, leaving one person dead and 15 injured on Tuesday last. The Railways admitted their fault, while the Chief Minister, Rabri Devi, used the opportunity to express her concern over the growing number of train accidents.

A day later, on Wednesday, two trains were moving on the same track and the Barauni-Gwalior Express also met with another accident. The driver saved the day by sighting the passenger train stranded due to engine failure.

In other incidents, a goods train derailed on the Danapur Section while on the Patna-Gaya section the engine of a passenger train got detached leaving the bogies behind; the 3151 UP Sealdah-Jammu Tawi Express smashed into a boulder placed on the track near Paraiya station on the Grand Chord, but fortunately, there was not much damage. In Purnia, the 5542 DN Janaki Express rammed a tractor at a railway crossing on Wednesday, injuring one person.

Add to these the increasing number of crimes on running trains in Bihar and Jharkhand. The passengers of the Palamu Express have been robbed at least a dozen times in the past few months alone. More than 300 incidents have been reported, mostly dacoities and robberies. A couple of murders too had taken place. But little has been done to check them. And what could be expected of the Railways and the State Government, when they are engaged in a game of one upmanship?

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