Goods train rams into Kanchanjunga Express in Bengal, 7 passengers, 2 railway staffers killed

Three rear coaches of the stationary Sealdah-bound Kanchanjunga Express derailed on Monday morning as a goods train collided with it in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district.
Rescue work underway after a collision between the Kanchanjungha Express and a goods train, near Rangapani railway station, on Monday, June 17, 2024.
Rescue work underway after a collision between the Kanchanjungha Express and a goods train, near Rangapani railway station, on Monday, June 17, 2024.

New Jalpaiguri/Kolkata/New Delhi | At least nine people were killed and 41 injured after a goods train rammed into the stationary Sealdah-bound Kanchanjunga Express in West Bengal's Darjeeling district on Monday, a senior railway official said.

Among the deceased were the pilot of the goods train and the guard of the passenger train, he added.

Senior West Bengal Police officials, however, put the casualty count at 15.

The collision occurred near Rangapani station, 30 km from New Jalpaiguri station, causing four rear compartments of Kanchanjunga Express to derail due to the impact by the goods train's locomotive at 8.55 am, the official said.

Soon after the accident, Railway Board chairperson Jaya Varma Sinha said the collision took place because the goods train disregarded the signal. The Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS) has started a probe into the cause of the accident.

While rescue operations had concluded at the accident site by late afternoon, efforts to restore rail services by removing the derailed and mangled coaches of the affected trains from the area were continuing till reports last received.

Bengal government officials confirmed that while several injured were treated and discharged during the course of the day, 41 patients remained admitted at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital. The conditions of nine patients, including a child, were stated to be critical.

Pointing towards a possible "human error" on part of loco pilot of the goods train, chairperson of the Railway Board Jaya Varma Sinha told the media in Delhi that the collision may have happened because a goods train disregarded the signal.

Sinha, though, admitted that the railways' 'Kavach' or anti-train collision system was not in place along the Guwahati-Delhi route where the accident took place. "It is not there right now," she said.

PM Narendra Modi expressed condolences, calling the incident in West

Rescue work underway after a collision between the Kanchanjungha Express and a goods train, near Rangapani railway station, on Monday, June 17, 2024.
Rescue work underway after a collision between the Kanchanjungha Express and a goods train, near Rangapani railway station, on Monday, June 17, 2024.

Bengal tragic and stating his prayers for the swift recovery of the injured.

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw visited the spot and took stock of relief operations and announced compensation for the injured and kin of the deceased.

While Rs 10 lakh would be given to the next of kin of the deceased, Rs 2.5 lakh would be provided to the grievously injured and Rs 50,000 to those with minor injuries, Vaishnaw posted on X.

Vaishnaw said the CRS has started a probe into the cause of the accident and added that steps will be taken to prevent a recurrence of the circumstances that led to the accident.

He stressed that restoring train operations on the critical route connecting northeast India with the rest of the country is a top priority for the railways.

According to a passenger, the train stopped abruptly with a sharp jerk accompanied by a loud sound. Upon disembarking, he saw that the goods train had hit their rake from behind. "We were having tea when the train stopped suddenly with a jerk," he said.

A pregnant woman, traveling with her family, said she fell off her seat upon impact. "It felt like an earthquake. It took us some time to collect ourselves and understand what happened," she said, sitting with her family in one of the air-conditioned sleeper coaches.

A passenger from Agartala, who was in coach number S6, said he felt a sudden jerk and the compartment screeched to a halt.

"My wife, child and I somehow managed to come out of the mangled coach. We are currently stranded... The rescue operations also started quite late," the passenger told a television channel.

According to railway officials, the passenger train was stationary when the goods train rammed into it.

Meanwhile, internal documents showed the goods train was allowed to

West Bengal Governor C V Ananda Bose meets injured passengers of Kanchanjunga Express admitted in North Bengal college & Hospital in Darjeeling, Monday, June 17, 2024.
West Bengal Governor C V Ananda Bose meets injured passengers of Kanchanjunga Express admitted in North Bengal college & Hospital in Darjeeling, Monday, June 17, 2024.

cross all red signals as the automatic signalling had "failed".

The document, a written authority called TA 912, was issued to the driver of the goods train by the station master of Ranipatra, authorising him to cross all red signals, a railway source said.

The Railway Board said initial findings indicated that the goods train driver violated signal regulations and failed to adhere to operational norms of the faulty automatic signal system.

Responding to claims that the goods train driver was permitted to pass red signals, a senior Railway Board official clarified, "The TA 912 authorisation was issued to the driver. As per protocol, when encountering a red signal on the automatic system, the loco pilot should proceed cautiously at speeds not exceeding 15 kmph under good visibility conditions and 10 kmph under poor visibility." According to the Board, the driver exceeded the permissible speed limit, leading to a collision with the Kanchanjunga Express between Ranipatra station and Chattar Hat junction.

A railway source said the automatic signalling system between Ranipatra station and Chattar Hat junction was defective since 5.50 am.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who visited the spot in the evening, alleged that the railways had become "totally parentless" and that it was only keen on increasing fares and not improving passenger amenities.

Governor CV Ananda Bose, who also visited the site and the hospital, said priority should be given to treating the victims and not to play blame games.

Railway officials, meanwhile, said the train has begun its journey to Kolkata with passengers in the unaffected coaches and is scheduled to reach Kolkata around midnight.

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