Nine killed, 60 injured in Bengal train collision: What we know so far

Top developments: Failure of automatic signal and potential 'human error' among preliminary causes behind fatal accident; absence of 'Kavach' anti-collision system sparks political debate.
Rescue operations are underway at the Kanchanjunga Express train accident site in Darjeeling on Monday.
Rescue operations are underway at the Kanchanjunga Express train accident site in Darjeeling on Monday.Photo | ANI

At least nine people were killed and 60 injured on Monday when a goods train collided with the Kanchanjunga Express in West Bengal's Darjeeling district.

The collision occurred near Rangapani station, 30 km from New Jalpaiguri station, causing four rear compartments of the Kanchanjunga Express to derail due to the impact from behind by the goods train's locomotive.

Prima facie findings into the Kanchanjunga Express accident in West Bengal show that the goods train violated speed restrictions it had to follow given the "defective" automatic signalling system on the section and rammed into the stationary passenger train while "over-speeding", the Railway Board said on Monday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed condolences, calling the incident in West Bengal tragic and stating his prayers for the swift recovery of the injured. In a post on X, Modi said the "railway accident in West Bengal is saddening. Condolences to those who lost their loved ones."

Here's what we know so far:

What preliminary investigation says

The incident occurred around 9 am near Rangapani, close to the New Jalpaiguri station. The Kanchanjunga Express was on its way to Sealdah from Agartala when the accident took place. A preliminary investigation revealed that the passenger train was stationary on the tracks when the goods train rammed into it from behind.

The deceased included seven passengers, the pilot of the goods train and the guard of the passenger train. Senior West Bengal Police officials, however, put the casualty count at 15.

Pointing towards a possible "human error" on the part of the loco pilot of the goods train, Railway Board chairperson Jaya Varma Sinha said the collision may have happened because the goods train disregarded the signal and hit the Kanchanjungha Express.

The guard's compartment on the rear end of the passenger train was completely damaged. Two parcel waggons were in between the guard's rearmost coach and a general compartment, which helped to minimise injuries to passengers, the official said.

Railway Minister vists spot, announces ex-gratia

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw reached the spot, took stock of relief operations and announced compensation for the injured and kin of the deceased. Enhanced ex-gratia compensation will be provided to the victims: Rs 10 lakh in case of death, Rs 2.5 lakh towards grievous injuries, and Rs 50,000 for minor injuries, Vaishnaw posted on X.

He said the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) has started a probe into the cause of the accident and added that measures will be taken to prevent a recurrence of the circumstances that led to the accident.

'Failed' automatic signal behind the crash?

Internal documents showed the goods train was allowed to cross all red signals as the automatic signalling had "failed."

The document, a written authority called TA 912, was issued to the driver of the goods train by the station master of Ranipatra, authorising him to cross all red signals, a railway source said.

According to reports, the automatic signalling system between RNI (Ranipatra Railway Station) and CAT (Chattar Hat Junction) had been defective since 5.50 am.

"Train No. 13174 (Sealdah-Kanchanjunga Express) departed Rangapani station at 8:27 am and stopped between RNI and CAT. The reason for the stopping of the train is unknown," the source told PTI.

'Kavach' not in place on mishap route: Railways

The Railways' 'Kavach' or anti-train collision system was not in place along the Guwahati-Delhi route, where the accident took place.

Railways Board Chairperson Jaya Varma Sinha said that Kavach, an automatic anti-collision train protection system, is being planned for the route. "It is not there right now," she said.

Several long-distance trains diverted

Long-distance train services from north Bengal and the northeastern part of the country were affected by the accident. Eastern Railway officials said route diversions of several long-distance trains were being made through the Siliguri-Bagdogra-Aluabari zone instead of their usual route, as the tracks remained blocked at the accident site.

'Railways totally parentless': Bengal CM Mamata

Alleging that the railways have become "totally parentless," West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed on Monday that it was only keen on increasing fares and not improving passenger amenities.

"The railways have become totally parentless. Though the ministry is there, the old glory is missing. Only beautification is being done, but they do not care about passenger amenities. They are only keen on hiking fares," she claimed.

She criticised the Railway Ministry, alleging that it wasn't implementing the anti-collision system properly, which could reduce the impact of such accidents. "The number of train accidents has gone up. Accidents are not in anyone's control; this is a fact. But the railways is not implementing the anti-collision system properly," she said.

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