Railways was not intimated about Dussehra event near tracks: Lohani

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New Delhi: The railways was not intimated about a Dussehra event along the tracks that led to the deaths of at least 61 people in Amritsar, Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani said in a statement.
He said that the accident occurred at a stretch between two stations — Amritsar and Manawala, and not at a level crossing.

“At midsections, trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to be on the tracks. At midsections, there is no railway staff posted. We have staff at level crossings whose job is to regulate traffic,” he said, explaining why the railways was not alerted about the congregation by its staff.

He said that the gateman was 400 metres away at a level crossing. He also said that if the driver had applied emergency breaks, there could have been a bigger tragedy.

He said that the train was running at its assigned speed and initial reports suggest that the driver applied brakes and the train slowed down.

“There was no information and no permission sought from us. The event took place at a place adjoining the railway land in private property,” he said.

Refusing to assign any blame, Lohani, who visited the spot at midnight, said that the national transporter has been carrying out campaigns exhorting people not to trespass. “We will take that forward,” he said.

At least 61 people were killed and 72 injured Friday evening after a crowd of Dussehra revellers that had spilled onto railway tracks while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy was run over by a train near here, officials said.

The train was coming from Jalandhar when the accident occurred at Joda Phatak near Amritsar, where at least 300 people were watching ‘Ravana dahan’ at a ground adjacent to the tracks.