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There are hundreds of incidents on the railways every year, but this is the most deadly accident in 2011. — Photo by AP

NEW DELHI: More than 30 people were killed Thursday after a train rammed into an over-laden bus carrying people returning from a wedding in northern India in the early hours of the morning, reports said.

The accident took place in Kanshiram Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh state where the bus appeared to have driven into the path of the train at an unmanned railway crossing while returning from a marriage party, news channels said.

The NDTV network broadcast footage from the scene, about 170 kilometres southeast of New Delhi, showing debris strewn across the tracks and police officers carrying bodies covered with sheets on stretchers.

The Press Trust of India news agency, quoting unnamed railway sources, said 33 people had been killed and 17 injured, while UNI news agency quoted a local magistrate as saying 31 bodies had been recovered.

Search operations were under way, the magistrate told UNI, and more victims could be pulled from the wreckage.

India's state-run railway system — still the main form of long-distance travel despite fierce competition from new private airlines — carries 18.5 million people daily.

There are hundreds of incidents on the railways every year, but this is the most deadly accident in 2011.

In May last year, nearly 150 people were killed when a Mumbai-bound high-speed passenger express from Kolkata veered off the tracks into the path of an oncoming freight train after the track had apparently been sabotaged.

In July 2010, more than 60 people were killed and 165 injured when a speeding express rammed into the back of a stationary passenger train in the eastern state of West Bengal.

The worst accident in India was in 1981 when a train plunged into a river in the eastern state of Bihar, killing an estimated 800 people.

The office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced compensation for the victims, with 200,000 rupees (4,500 dollars) for the families of the deceased and 50,000 for the injured.

In February, India's railways minister revealed a nearly 40 per cent hike in the budget of the accident-prone Indian Railways, on which safety regulations are routinely flouted.

Attempts to stop people riding on the roofs of trains have largely failed, vehicles routinely drive around barriers at crossings, and passengers are often seen hanging out of open doors in the carriages.

Experts say the creaking system, the world's second largest under a single management, is also desperately in need of new investment to help end transportation bottlenecks that threaten the country's fast economic growth.

The railways is country's largest employer with 1.4 million people on its payroll and it runs 11,000 trains a day.