Investigation Underway in New Jalpaiguri Train Collision; High-Speed Goods Train Suspected

In the wake of the tragic train accident near New Jalpaiguri, where the Sealdah-bound 13174 Kanchanjunga Express collided with a goods train, an extensive investigation has been launched. The collision, which occurred at approximately 9 am on Monday near Rangapani station, resulted in the deaths of at least 8 people and injuries to over 20 others. The accident led to the derailment of two rear compartments of the Kanchanjunga Express, causing significant damage and sparking an urgent response from rescue teams.

On the first day of the probe, 10 railway staffers provided their statements to the chief commissioner of railway safety, NFR. Among those deposed were 3 gatemen from level crossings between Rangapani station and the accident site, 2 linesmen, 2 station managers, the pilot and co-pilot of the Kanchanjunga Express, and another railway employee.

A crucial testimony came from one of the gatemen, who reported seeing the goods train traveling at a speed higher than the approved limit.

“One of the gatemen said that he had seen the train passing at a speed higher than the allowed limit and had immediately called Rangapani Station to alert them. We are checking the timing of the landline conversation and are questioning the station manager and other officials about what they had done after receiving the information,” stated Surendra Kumar, Divisional Railway Manager, Katihar Division.

The investigation team, currently working out of the additional divisional railway manager’s office in Siliguri, has called upon around 30 individuals, including railway personnel, witnesses, and rescuers, to provide further insights. Efforts are underway to record the statement of the assistant loco pilot of the goods train, who could provide critical information about the moments leading up to the collision.

Initial reports indicate that the automatic signaling system between Ranipatra Railway Station and Chattar Hat Junction had been defective since 5:50 am on the day of the accident.

Rescue operations are ongoing, with teams working meticulously to avoid the use of gas cutters, which could pose additional risks to potentially trapped passengers. The process is slow, and the rainfall is adding further difficulty.

The accident has led to a suspension of all rail services on this route, a critical artery for freight movement in West Bengal and the surrounding regions. Freight trains scheduled to pass through the affected section have either rerouted or delayed causing significant logistical challenges, as alternate routes were not only longer but also already congested with regular traffic. This rerouting has increased transit times and costs for freight operators, impacting the delivery schedules of goods ranging from agricultural produce to industrial raw materials.

As the probe continues, no one has yet been held responsible for the accident. The investigation aims to determine the exact causes and accountability, focusing on the actions taken following the alarm raised about the goods train’s excessive speed. The findings will be crucial in preventing such tragedies in the future and ensuring safer railway operations.

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