GUJAR KHAN/LAHORE: Two bogies from the Rawalpindi-bound Jaffar Express derailed near Gujar Khan on Wednesday, but passengers remained unhurt.
Rail operations between Lahore and Rawalpindi were suspended as a result of the accident.
The train, which originated from Quetta, derailed while approaching Pindora, some six kilometres ahead of Gujar Khan station.
One of the bogies that derailed was filled with cargo, while the others had passengers on board. Half a kilometre of the railway track was dismantled as well.
Eyewitnesses and railways officials said passengers were not injured.
Pakistan Railways Rawalpindi Divisional Superintendent Syed Munawar Shah and other authorities supervised the rescue operation at the site.
Mr Shah told Dawn that the last two coaches – one for passengers and the other carrying cargo – of the Jaffar Express derailed and kept running on sleepers for about half a kilometre when it approached Missa Kaswal.
“The driver, after learning of the situation, stopped the train and Railways official [assistant transportation officer] Abida Maryam, who was also travelling in the locomotive for inspection purposes, immediately called the office to send a relief train to the site,” he said.
The train departed from Lahore at 9:45am, an hour and 15 minutes later than its scheduled departure time, carrying hundreds of passengers in nine coaches.
It was to arrive at Rawalpindi station at 2:45pm, but derailed at around 1:45pm as it was about to cross Gujar Khan station.
Various express down and upward trains, including the Green Line, Pakistan Express, Awam Express, Rehman Baba Express and Railcar, were stopped at stations on the way leaving passengers – many of whom were reportedly fasting – stranded for several hours in hot weather.
Since rail traffic operations were suspended due to relief work on the track, most passengers left their trains and opted for road transport to reach their destinations.
“We shifted the passengers of the affected coach to other coaches. Later, we separated the affected two coaches and succeeded in moving the train for Rawalpindi after some time. But passengers riding in other trains that were on the way suffered. We even facilitated many of them in reaching their destinations by bus after we made certain arrangements in this regard,” Mr Shah said.
According to preliminary investigation, the derailment was caused by the falling off of a buffer of one of the affected coaches, which damaged the track.
This stretch of the mainline track cannot be used further, as it requires the laying of a new track.
Mr Shah said: “We will start laying the new track for the half kilometre tomorrow. Meanwhile, we succeeded in restoring rail traffic after carrying out temporary repairs so trains could at least pass this portion at dead-slow speeds [up to 5km per hour].”
The Thal-Mianwali Express had derailed on May 21 on the Railways branch line route (Rawalpindi–Multan–Rawalpindi), which also left passengers stranded in hot weather. On May 8, a Lahore-bound good train derailed near Padidan railway station in Sindh, leading to a suspension of rail traffic on the main line for a couple of days.
Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2019