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Signalling, interlocking system failure: Two express trains have a narrow escape

Updated July 20, 2019

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Drivers’ body says six accidents have been averted since the July 11 crash. — AFP/File
Drivers’ body says six accidents have been averted since the July 11 crash. — AFP/File

LAHORE: As the malfunctioning of railways signalling and track interlocking system continues, train drivers have averted six accidents since the July 11 Akbar Express crash into a stationary goods train at the Walhar station in Rahim Yar Khan district which left 24 passengers dead.

On Friday, the driver of Lahore-bound Khyber Mail averted a major crash when he managed to stop the train by applying emergency brakes as Fareed Express was already stationed at the Mehrabpur station loop line in Naushahro Feroze, Sindh.

“The driver found the outer signal green and yellow which meant that the train was to be diverted to the loop line where Fareed Express was already stationed. Had the driver failed to stop Khyber Mail, we might have faced another tragedy like we witnessed at Walhar. It is the sixth such happening after July 11 in which the drivers managed to escape major accidents,” PR’s Train Drivers Association Chairman Shams Pervaiz told Dawn.

Drivers’ body says six accidents averted since July 11 crash

Before this, he said, the newly-launched Sir Syed Express had escaped a major accident on July 16 after the driver managed to stop it at Baria railway station near Sukkur.

“It might have been a major tragedy. As soon as the train reached near the station, the driver found outer signals repeatedly flashing green, red, yellow. He applied emergency brakes to stop the train. Later, he found the points settled for the loop line. The station master refused to receive the complaint called memo in writing from the driver,” the association chief added.

He said the inquiry dates for the aforementioned happenings have been fixed as July 21 and 22, respectively.

Shams said on July 14, Fareed Express too escaped a crash after the driver stopped the train at the Walhar railway station — the place where Akbar Express rammed into a goods train on July 11. In this incident too, the driver found the signal green. But he managed to stop the train and found the points settled for loop line instead of the main track. He also lodged a complaint in writing.

Similarly, three other identical happenings were reported to the association in which the drivers escaped major accidents. “The drivers are escaping derailments and accidents almost on a daily basis. But for how long they can escape accidents when the PR’s signalling and interlocking system is malfunctioning,” Pervaiz warned.

On the other hand, the arrival and departure schedule of a number of passenger trains remains disrupted for the last couple of months. On Friday, Business Express, Karachi Express, Karakoram, Millat, Pakistan and some other trains departed late from Lahore to various destinations.

“Shortage of passenger coaches, delayed arrival, derailments etc are the reasons behind continuous delayed departure of trains,” said an official source in the PR.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2019