A view of the damaged carriages of a phosphate-laden Iran-Pakistan train after it derailed near Tozgi station, about 70km from Taftan, on Saturday.—Courtesy Pakistan Railways
A view of the damaged carriages of a phosphate-laden Iran-Pakistan train after it derailed near Tozgi station, about 70km from Taftan, on Saturday.—Courtesy Pakistan Railways

• Derailment suspends Pak-Iran rail operations
• PR chief says possibility of terror attack can’t be ruled out
• Two other mishaps reported over past week, disrupting Railways’ Eid services

LAHORE: A Quetta-bound cargo train derailed on Saturday near Tozgi station, around 70km from Taftan town on the Pak-Iran border, suspending rail operations between the two countries.

The goods train, with some passenger coaches attached, was loaded with phosphate and travelling from Iran towards its destination in Pakistan, Pakistan Railways (PR) CEO Amir Ali Baloch told Dawn.

The harrowing derailment significantly damaged the locomotive, a staff rest coach and a few wagons. Authorities fear that this was a terrorist attack, with the PR CEO saying that the possibility “cannot be ruled out”.

Mr Baloch said the incident was being probed in view of the killings in Noshki, where gunmen shot and killed nine men on Friday night after abducting them from a bus. Besides, militants also damaged a portion of a track near Noshki a day ago, he said.

He said an inquiry had been ordered to assess the causes of derailment. To a question, he said the train was slightly speeding when it was derailed.

He said the damaged track where the derailment occurred would be repaired as soon as PR workers access the area, which was currently cordoned off.

The Taftan derailment was one of at least three major accidents that occurred over the past week, a busy period for the organisation as it runs special trains to transport people travelling to celebrate Eidul Fitr with their families.

In an accident last week, the Peshawar-bound Rehman Baba Express collided with a dumper truck near Faisalabad during the late hours of Sunday, according to reports.

The truck, crossing the railway line at an unmanned level crossing at the Pakka Anna-Gojra section, was cut into halves due to the intensity of the crash.

The engine driver and his assistant received serious injuries, while the locomotive and a passenger coach also suffered massive damage. The rescue teams had to cut through the locomotive’s body to take out the driver and his assistant.

The accident suspended rail traffic on the Khanewal-Faisalabad section for hours, delaying trains’ arrival at the Faisalabad station.

The third accident took place on Friday when a coach of the Karachi-bound Allama Iqbal Express caught fire near Sargodha. According to reports, the train was crossing Sahiwal Junction when a Railway Police head constable spotted fire underneath carriage No. 6.

Eyewitnesses said that after spotting the fire, Muhammad Amin Sindhu rushed to the assistant station master’s office, who forcefully stopped the train by raising a red signal within the outer signal range.

Some passengers had jumped off the moving train at Sahiwal station before it was stopped, eyewitnesses said.

Later, the PR police safely disembarked the passengers and put out the fire. The damaged carriage was taken to the yard, and the train left for its destination after a delay of one and a half hours.

Mismanagement, overloading

The PR operations suffered not only due to accidents but also mismanagement, which resulted in severe distress for passengers.

On Thursday, several passengers travelling in the Rawalpindi-bound Rawal Express claimed that people without tickets occupied the seats of passengers who had confirmed reservations. They alleged that the staff allowed ticketless passengers on the train, causing severe inconvenience for those travelling with a ticket.

The PR also had to face embarrassment when a video went viral a couple of days ago, showing a Railways Police constable beating a woman passenger and her children in a moving train.

Reportedly, the incident took place in Millat Express, where Constable Meer Hasan assaulted the passenger. After the incident’s video went viral, the higher-ups of Railways Police intervened and arrested the constable.

A case was also registered at the Hyderabad Railways Police Station, but the accused was released after he secured bail from the court.

Published in Dawn, April 14th, 2024

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