Trains stop 100 metres short of disaster

Kolkata (KOL): Hundreds of suburban commuters had a narrow escape after two trains came face to face in the railway yard outside Sealdah station on Thursday morning. The incident occurred after the loco pilot of the 53173 Sealdah-Lalgola Passenger train allegedly overshot a red signal and came in the way of a Down Bongaon local that was cleared to enter Sealdah. Fortunately for passengers, both trains were travelling at a very slow speed and came to a stop barely 100 metres from each other. Eastern Railway’s Sealdah Division has suspended Asit Hore, loco pilot of the Lalgola Passenger, and his assistant P Sil. An inquiry has started.

At 8.10am, the starter signal of Platform 7 at Sealdah turned amber, granting permission to the loco pilot of the Lalgola Passenger to begin his journey. There is another signal at a distance that was apparently red. Hore allegedly ignored this and moved towards the Up line. To do this, he had to pass over a short stretch of the Down line that the Bongaon local was to use to enter Sealdah. When Hore crossed to the Down line, he spotted the Bongaon local in front and applied brakes. There was no way he could cross over to the Up line as the local train was in the way.

“This happened at 8.17am. As soon as the error was noticed, the train was reversed and brought back to the platform at Sealdah. It resumed its journey at 9.32 with a new crew. The loco pilot and assistant loco pilot were suspended. The Bongaon local also entered the station safely. The loco pilot and assistant loco pilot have been suspended for overshooting a red signal. If the charge is established, they stand to lose their jobs,” said R N Mahapatra, CPRO, ER.

According to an official, given the layout of the yard outside Sealdah, there was no way that both trains could have moved in and out of the station together. Platform 7 needed to be cleared for use by Down suburban trains during the peak morning hour. A decision was thereby taken to grant permission to the Lalgola Passenger to start but stop it at the next signal. By this time, the Down Bongaon local had been stopped at the Home signal. After the Lalgola Passenger received a red signal in the yard, the Home signal for the local train turned to amber. The motorman started moving towards Sealdah when he spotted the Lalgola Passenger in front and slammed the brakes.

“There are several signals beyond the starter signal of the platform which we call the yard or intermediate signals. The loco pilot overshot an intermediate signal and came close to the local train. A probe is in progress,” said Suchitto Kumar Das, Divisional Railway Manager, Sealdah. Officials denied that there was any panic among passengers.