Local Train derails in Kolkata, close shave for thousands

Kolkata:  Hundreds of commuters on the 31612 Ranaghat-Sealdah local had a narrow escape on Saturday morning when seven coaches derailed soon after the train left Dum Dum junction. Thankfully, it had not yet gained speed. Passengers felt a huge lurch and were thrown about in the packed bogies, but there were only minor injuries.

Services in the Sealdah main line remained affected throughout the day with Eastern Railway cancelling over 54 pairs of local trains. Long-distance trains were delayed. A track fracture seems to have caused the derailment, say sources.

The train started from Dum Dum at 6.05am and moved barely a few hundred yards when there was a huge jerk. Residents of Bediapara, who live near the tracks, saw the wheels of some coaches dragging along the ballast. Within seconds, the coaches tilted to one side and rested precariously on one set of wheels with the other set hanging in the air.

The motorman pulled the emergency brakes and brought the train to a stop. Inside the coaches, there was panic for a few minutes as people scrambled to get out. Railway staff arrived within minutes to help them. Some people were injured as they were thrown from their seats. The derailed coaches infringed on the up-track and this, too, was blocked. While the up-track was restored by 4pm, it was late evening by the time the Down line could be made cleared.

“Prima facie, it seems track fracture was responsible. However, we can’t be sure why this happened before a proper inquiry. The commissioner of railway safety will start his probe from Monday,” said Jaya Verma, divisional railway manager, Sealdah. Railway sources said a rail fracture was detected near Halisahar station on Saturday morning. It has been repaired.

Officials said that at times, the cracks are hair-thin and can’t be detected by drivers or maintenance staff. As a train moves over the affected portion, the stress increases and the rail snaps completely. On Saturday, while a few coaches managed to cross the affected part, the rear ones got derailed.

“A major accident could have occurred had it been a long-distance train or a non-stop local. People would have been certainly injured had coaches of a speeding train derailed in this manner. There was another risk. There could have been a collision had a train been moving on the Up track at that time. This is what happened in the Jnaneswari Express case,” a railway officer said.

The Sealdah main line section is one of the busiest in the country and lakhs of commuters use it every day to reach Kolkata. There were fewer passengers because it was a Saturday but thousands got stranded at several stations and were late for work.