Boulder Crash on Hubli-LTT Express Train near Lonavla not our Fault: Central Railway

PUNE: In the third such incident this year, a boulder crashed into the Hubli-LTT Express train near Lonavla around 5.15 am yesterday, jolting passengers awake and injuring three. The question that arises is, why didn’t the railway authorities do enough to prevent this, considering that similar rock collapses had killed a staffer and derailed a locomotive in the past.

Was it negligence on the part of Central Railway that led to the boulder collapsing on the sleeper coach S-6 of the 17317 Hubli-LTT Express train at Monkey Hill? The authorities had had several warnings about the dangers in the route.

Just last month, on July 18, a rolling boulder led to the derailment of the locomotive of CSMT-Hyderabad Express in the same area. There had been no injuries then. Earlier, on January 21, however, a similar incident killed a railway employee and injured two contractual labourers after a rock fell on them in a section near Lonavla on the same route.

On Monday morning, the impact of the boulder crash was so severe that it ripped through the coach roof into the passenger seating area, injuring a father-son duo -Hasansaab Belavanki, 59, his son Asif, 25, residents of Hubli — and another commuter sleeping on the adjacent berth, Shivprasad Mallappa Hiremath, 27, resident of Bhandup West.

Sunil Udasi, chief public relations officer for Central Railway, told, “It would be unfair to say that there was negligence on the part of Central Railway. After last month’s incident, the railway team had done extensive work to cut off hanging rocks and level the cliffs. It is a continuous process.”

“If you see the location of Monday’s boulder fall, it is a very high vertical cliff. The boulder fell from such a height that it damaged the roof of the train. The entire stretch is very mountainous and there are hanging rocks,” he added.

New precautions

The CR official said that extensive lighting had been installed in the 600-metre stretch that was vulnerable, to improve visibility for staffers patrolling the area. They have also planned to put a few cameras, wherever feasible, to keep an eye out for fallen or falling rocks, so prompt warnings can be issued at the nearest stations.

“We are also seeking help from Konkan Railway, which deals with such issues regularly. In addition to this, we have written to the Railways Design & Standards Organisation, the railways research wing, to use their expertise to suggest remedial measures,” Udasi said.

Victims stable

The rescue and relief operation began immediately, with doctors stabilising the victims in the Accident Relief Medical Van. The father-son duo needed CT scans and further treatment, and were shifted to Fortis Hospital in Kalyan. An amount of Rs 25,000 each has been paid in compensation to them, while the third injured victim received Rs 5,000.