MUMBAI: With a seven-foot-long overhead equipment mast found in Navi Mumbai on Wednesday, railway authorities have stepped up patrolling along tracks and are removing broken iron girders. This is the third such incident reported by a loco pilot in the past 15 days. All three incidents have occurred on the Central Railway.
On February 6, a five-foot-long iron girder, weighing around 400 kg, was found on the tracks by the driver of the Pune-Santragachi Express between Kalamboli and Taloja stations. Initially, the driver failed to notice the girder because of the dark and dragged it for few metres. Around 7.15 p.m., he noticed an obstacle in the wheel and immediately stopped the train. The Pune-Santragachi Express starts from Pune and halts at Kalamboli and Panvel before heading to Santragachi in West Bengal.
A senior Central Railway official said, “The train could have been derailed had the girder been placed across the track. A major accident was averted.” The Kalamboli police registered a case under different sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Railways Act, 1989.
On January 24, the driver of the Madgaon-Dadar Janshatabdi Express spotted a seven-metre-long rail piece on the tracks near Diva station. The railway police are investigating the incident and have questioned almost 150 people, including railway staff.
A day after a five-foot piece of rail was found placed diagonally over the track near Kalamboli station on the Diva-Panvel stretch on Tuesday, another disaster was averted on Wednesday morning after the driver of a freight train applied the brakes after spotting an eight-foot-long iron pole placed diagonally over the track on the Panvel-Uran route, near Dapoli village.
Panvel city police has registered a case against an unidentified person and an investigation is underway. “The loco pilot pulled the emergency brake and alerted the railway control room,” said an officer of Panvel police station.
According to a railway official, the iron pole was removed from the track and the goods train was allowed to move towards Uran. “The route is used by goods trains to transport containers that are shipped to various countries through JNPT,” said the official.
Prakash Nilewad, Assistant Commissioner of Police of Zone II of Navi Mumbai police said, “This is the second incident within two days. This time again, the loco pilot of a train noticed an obstruction on the track and stopped the train. We have started an investigation.”
This is the second incident that could have been an act of sabotage, after Tuesday’s incident.
The police and other agencies are probing both incidents from different angles.
“Miscreants could be behind both incidents. Both cases should be investigated separately as they may not be linked,” said a senior officer from zone II.
After the arrest of a key suspect, Mohd.Samshul Hoda, from Nepal for his alleged role in recent train accidents in Bihar and Kanpur, railway officials are on the alert. An official said, “We are taking all precautions to avoid such incidents in future. We are also informing all loco pilots and local train drivers to be alert. We are trying to deploy extra staff to ensure more safety and focus more attention on such activities.” Night patrolling has been increased on tracks and in areas with low presence of police and railway staff.
G.C. Agrawal, General Manager, Western Railway, said, “Sometimes some portion of the rail are left behind after work. We have instructed all workers to immediately remove such pieces from the tracks.” Atul Srivastav, Chief Security Commissioner, Central Railway, said, “This is a serious concern and we have given orders to clear the tracks completely after the work to avoid any such untoward incidents.”
In the wake of these incidents, our staff is taking extra care. These discarded pieces were spotted as part of that.” Nilewad added that no arrest has been made in connection with the overhead equipment found lying on the railway tracks between Jasai and Dapoli stations yesterday.
A senior officer in the Mumbai Division of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) said, apart from stepping up patrolling along the tracks, their staff was extending all the support to the probe agencies.
“It would be a bit premature to jump to the conclusion that these are acts of terrorism or sabotage, but all the agencies, including the RPF, are leaving no stone unturned to nab those involved in these cases,” the official said.
Although, no suspected case of sabotage has so far been reported from the Western Railway (WR), its officials say that they are taking all measures to prevent such incidents.
General Manager of WR GC Agrawal said, “So far, such cases have only been reported under CR, but it does not mean that it cannot take place in the WR areas. We have already taken serious cognisance of the cases and have held talks at the railway board level as everyone is concerned about them.” He said the departments concerned have been asked to remove the rail pieces lying along the tracks.
“Usually, we are not supposed to keep small rail pieces around the tracks. So, the departments concerned, including the engineering and stores sections, have been asked to look into the matter,” said Agrawal.