LAHORE: Rail operations remained disrupted on the main line for hours on Monday after three coaches of Karachi-bound Jinnah Express got derailed in the yard area within Lahore station’s jurisdiction.

Though the passengers in the derailed coaches remained safe, they, including children, had to face great inconvenience in the ongoing cold spell for about three hours, according to a source in the Pakistan Railways (PR).

“The train departed for Karachi in the afternoon. But, unfortunately three of its coaches derailed, frightening many passengers. The panicked passengers alighted from the derailed coaches and started walking back to the station along the track with their children in the chilly weather,” an official source at Lahore station told Dawn.

As per initial inquiry, a broken part of the track has been identified as the reason behind the coaches derailment that could not be detected during the routine check-up, besides negligence on the part of officials concerned.

However, there are also reports that the track that was already dilapidated, perhaps, broke because of the train’s load, leading to the derailment. “But again it is very sad that the PR management still continues focusing on increasing the number of trains and is not rehabilitating the decaying track urgently.

Passengers suffer in chilly weather

Sources said the train moved from Lahore station at about 2:30pm for Karachi. But its three coaches (4 to 6) suddenly derailed after entering the yard area, near the outer signals at about 2:35pm.

On knowing about the incident, the officials, headed by the divisional superintendent (DS) rushed to the spot and started efforts to detach the derailed coaches from the rake. “We first managed to bring the passengers of the affected coaches back to the station. And then, we called the relief train on the site to detach the affected coaches from the rake. It took us two hours. Finally, we dispatched the train to Karachi after over two hours delay,” PR’s Lahore DS Amir Nisar Chaudhry told Dawn.

He said since the derailment took place within the yard area, the operations staff’s priority was to dispatch the affected train first and then those following it. “It is a busy area. And we started dispatching the train, leaving the affected coaches on the track. However, we will lift the coaches or put them back on the track later,” the DS said, adding the most of the Up trains’ departure, including that of Karachi and Business Express got delayed.

Meanwhile, the PR’s top management, taking a speedy action, suspended the Lahore’s assistant executive engineer (AEN-III) from service after the officers got convinced that the derailment happened ‘just because of the broken rail track’.

“We have suspended the AEN (Abdul Rehman) from service in the light of initial report,” the PR’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Aijaz Buriro told Dawn. He said it was AEN’s prime responsibility to ensure thorough inspection of the track on a daily basis.

“It has been proved that the track had already cracked due to rolling stock load. That is why we have suspended the official (AEN). We have also ordered a detailed inquiry into the derailment,” Mr Buriro maintained.

The PR admin recently suspended many officials, including 13 policemen, for showing negligence that led to various train accidents.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2019