Railways not responsible for Amritsar tragedy: Lohani

Amritsar,   Hours after 60 hapless Dussehra revellers were mowed down by a train here in Punjab, Chairman Railway Board Ashwani Lohani on Saturday dismissed the railways’ responsibility in the tragedy.

Lohani said at Jora Phatak the Jalandhar-Amritsar Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) passenger train which was running at its assigned speed, its loco-pilot applied brakes to slow it down.

“Trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to go on the tracks. It was a clear case of trespassing.

“There was no intimation to the railways regarding this (Dussehra) event adjoining the railway track,” Lohani told reporters here.

The accident happened near Dhobi Ghat on Friday evening when the people who had come to see the burning of the Ravan effigy.

Lohani said the accident site falls under the “mid-section of the two stations” where the trains run at their “assigned speed” as per the condition of the track.

“The place where the accident happened was basically mid-section between two stations — Mananwala and Amritsar and not at a level crossing,” the Chairman Railway Board said.

According to a senior railway official, the incident happened some 340 metres from an interlocked level crossing of the railways.

Lohani also said that the railway posts its staff at the manned level crossing to regulate the road traffic and nod at the mid-sections of the railway track between two stations.

When asked about the responsibility of the loco-pilot, Lohani said, “Our initial report suggest that the loco-pilot applied the brakes and the speed came down from 90 kmph to around 60-65 kmph. We are still looking at the seepdometer charts,” Lohani said.

He also cautioned the general public to not to trespass. “Railways regularly carries out campaign to build awareness among people to not jaywalk on tracks.”

On Friday, a 700 strong crowd watching a huge Ravan effigy go up in flames amid exploding crackers spilled on to the tracks at Jora Phatahk when the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU passenger train heading to Hoshiarpur from Amritsar came hurtling down around 7 p.m.

Most people reportedly could not hear the hooting of the train due to the exploding crackers.

In just 10-15 seconds it left behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies.

The Punjab government has declared state mourning on Saturday.

Video clips posted on the social media showed some people who had apparently seen the approaching train tried to run away.

Following the accident, the railways cancelled 37 trains, diverted 16 trains, short terminated 12 trains and short originated six trains on the route.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh will visit the accident spot on Saturday later.