LAHORE / TOBA TEK SINGH: A Nankana Sahib-bound train carrying hundreds of Sikh pilgrims from Karachi and interior Sindh derailed between the Pirmahal and Shorkot railway stations on Saturday morning, leaving the train operations suspended for hours on the Lahore-Shorkot-Abdul Hakim sections.
Some of the pilgrims suffered minor injuries due to derailment of nine of the 17 passenger coaches, Dawn learnt. Officials deny any injury in the accident.
Officials told Dawn that the train was carrying around 770 passengers (Sikh pilgrims intending to reach Nankana Sahib to participate in the commemorative ceremonies on the 553rd birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak). When the train reached between the Pirmahal and Shorkot stations, about 60km away from the Khanewal railway junction, around 7:55am, nine of the 17 coaches derailed. The accident panicked the passengers and the crew informed the authorities about it through the control room, they said.
Officials said a relief train was dispatched to the spot from the Khanewal railway station and senior officers including the PR Lahore’s divisional superintendent reached there and monitored the relief operation which took six hours to complete.
Inquiry committee to submit report within three days
“As many as 500 passengers were sent to Nankana Sahib by the seven coaches of the same train while the remaining 270 or so people were dispatched by another train by 12pm. No one suffered injury,” claimed the PR spokesman. He said the derailed coaches were brought back on track by the engineering team.
A source said around 3,000 Indian Sikh pilgrims were due to arrive in Lahore via Wagah on Sunday (today) to attend the anniversary events.
Meanwhile, the federal minister for railways constituted a three-member committee to probe the derailment. The committee will submit its preliminary report to the authorities within three days.
A source said the rundown track and speeding by the driver were the main causes of the derailment. “The condition of the rolling stock also should be checked,” he said.
On July 3, 2020, as many as 22 people including 20 Sikh pilgrims were killed and nine other people injured after a train rammed into a passenger coach at the railway track passing through Sucha Soda temple, a small town near Farooqabad in Sheikhupura district. The tragic incident took place at a small unmanned level crossing about 100 feet away from a manned level crossing.
The PR has been in trouble for the last four years or so due to accidents on the main and branch lines. The dilapidated condition of the tracks and rolling stock, faulty signalling/interlocking system, officials’ negligence, speeding, unmanned level crossings, financial crisis and shortage of staff are said to be major reasons behind the accidents.
According to information gleaned by correspondent, three of the bogies were sent to the Shorkot Cantonment railway station and the remaining passengers were sent to Nankana Sahib by private buses by the district administrations of Jhang and Toba Tek Singh.
Lahore Railways Divisional Superintendent Hanif Gill told reporters that it was premature to pin blame for the accident on anyone and the inquiry findings would make the picture clear. He said it’s clear that the fishplates of the track were tampered and the possibility of a subversive activity could not be ruled out.
He said the technical staff reached the place of accident by two trains from Multan and Lahore.
A press release issued by the information department claimed that relief operation was completed by the district administration under the supervision of Deputy Commissioner Chaudhry Muhammad Arshad Bhaddar and DPO Rana Shoaib Mahmood. It added that meals were supplied to 700 pilgrims at the accident site and they were sent to Nankana Sahib by arranging alternative transport facility.
Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2022