LAHORE: Nine people were injured in a collision between the Lahore-bound Mianwali Express and a goods train near Sheikhupura on Sunday.
According to official sources, the passenger train was on its way to Lahore when it hit from behind a freight train parked at a loop line at Qila Sattar Shah station, around 20km east of Sheikhupura.
An internal report submitted to the Pakistan Railways (PR) top officials said the 147-up Mianwali Express entered the station around 4:35am and collided with the goods train’s rear van on loop line No 3.
The passenger train’s engine, a few coaches and the rear van of the goods train were derailed as a result of the collision, due to which traffic remained suspended on both up and down tracks for over three hours.
Mianwali Express rams into freight train at loop line; officials suspect negligence, faulty signals; driver among five suspended
The accident left four passengers and five officials injured. The injured officials were identified as Nauman (train manager), Abu Bakar (staff of the train contractor), Abdul Sattar (staff), Imran Sarwar (driver) and Bilal (assistant driver).
A PR spokesman claimed all injuries were of a minor nature and no injured person was required to be shifted to a hospital.
A relief train from Lahore, headed by Lahore PR divisional superintendent, arrived at the site an hour later and took part in the relief operation, the internal report added.
After the relief operation, the Mianwali Express, with a new engine, left the station at around 7:20am.
Other than the Mianwali Express, two trains — Shuttle Train (27up) and Shuttle Train (28-up) — were delayed due to the accident.
The train was being run by a private party since its commercial operations were outsourced by the PR in 2021.
Negligence or faulty signals
A PR source told Dawn that the Mianwali Express was on the main line and its collision with another train at the loop line “is a very serious issue that must not be ignored”.
This was an “apparent negligence” allegedly on the part of the assistant station master and the cabin man (kantaywala) who give line clearance to a train on the main track, the source added.
“If the Mianwali Express, which was not supposed to shift to the loop line, entered the track and collided with an already stationary train, it means that either the officials concerned didn’t perform their duty properly or the track interlocking / signalling system was not working,” the source told Dawn.
The train was reportedly given the clearance to continue on the main track as it was not supposed to stop at the station. “But how it entered the loop line, it is [a big question].”
“I think it is the system’s failure, as the interlocking/signalling system is outdated on the track,” said the source, adding that the actual cause of the accident would be revealed in the investigation report.
The department has suspended four officials, including the train driver, over alleged negligence and ordered an inquiry into the accident.
Those suspended from duty included Mr Sarwar and Mr Bilal, along with Ali Raza (assistant station master, Qila Sattar Shah Station) and Safdar Hussain (cabin man).
Shahid Aziz, the PR CEO, summoned an emergency meeting of senior officials on Sunday morning and formed a committee to probe the accident and submit a preliminary report within 24 hours.
The track on which Sunday’s accident took place has seen deadly collisions in the past as well.
In 2020, 22 people, mainly Sikh pilgrims travelling home from Nankana Sahib, were killed when the Shah Hussain Express rammed into a coaster at the railway track passing through Sucha Soda, a small town near Farooqabad in Sheikhupura district.
Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2023