LAHORE / NAUSHAHRO FEROZE: The entire train operation between Karachi and upcountry came to a grinding halt in the early hours of Friday morning after a Lahore-bound goods train derailed near Padidan station in Sindh.
However, train service between Quetta and Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was not disrupted due to the incident.
The railway teams succeeded in restoring upcountry rail traffic by clearing the track at 10pm. However, the downward traffic is expected to be fully restored by Saturday (today), said Pakistan Railway (PR) Sukkur Divisional Superintendent Malik Farooq.
In the meantime, he said, the PR operations staff would make efforts to move the traffic towards Karachi by using the crossover technique.
Train service partially restored after 20 hours; police rule out possibility of sabotage
The minister for railways and the chairman and chief executive officer of the PR could not be contacted for comment despite efforts.
Padidan-based police officials told Dawn that no signs of any act of terrorism had been found so far. However, they are investigating the incident to find out the cause of the derailment.
According to a senior official at the railways headquarters, the rail track falling in territorial jurisdiction of the Sukkur division required urgent upgrade since no one in the organisation had paid heed to this issue from 2012 to 2018.
The PR’s Sukkur division covers the main line track from Tando Adam (Sindh) to Khanpur (Punjab) and the branch line track from Sukkur to Sibi.
“The tracks here are really in pathetic condition, requiring urgent rehabilitation. That is why most of the derailments happen in this region,” the official explained. In recent meetings, he said, it was decided to provide resources to the PR’s Sukkur division to enable it to rehabilitate the track.
A PR official said the derailment was of serious nature as it had caused massive damage to the wagons, containers, goods and both the up and down tracks of the main railway line of the country.
“It is another major tragedy after the April 2 derailment near Rahim Yar Khan when the entire rail operation was badly affected. The latest incident occurred at about 2am on Friday, leaving 10 wagons and 20 containers badly damaged. The crews was told to stop up/down passenger and goods trains at major railway stations that left a large number of passengers stranded,” the official told Dawn, requesting not to be named.
The PR administration sent relief trains to Padidan from Sukkur and Khanewal to clear the track.
According to a senior official of the PR Sukkur division, the goods train derailed apparently due to some issues in the track. “We have found some broken bolts and fishplates which means that the derailment occurred because of this issue. However, the real cause will be established after a detailed inquiry,” the PR’s divisional superintendent of Sukkur told Dawn.
Meanwhile, passengers of various trains, most of them observing fast, spent the whole night and the next day at different railway stations. Many of them reportedly departed for their destinations by buses.
According to a PR spokesperson in Lahore, three wagons overturned while six fell on the track. The PR administration got the passenger and goods trains halted at different stations and sent rescue trains.
The goods train derailed between Bhiria and Padidan railway stations near Naushahro Feroze. No casualties were reported, but more than a dozen passenger trains — including Green Line, Khyber Mail, Taizgam, Sukkur Express, Jinnah Express, Allama Iqbal Express, were halted at different railway stations.
Heavy machinery, including cranes, was brought from Kotri and Rohri railway stations to clear the track.
The passengers travelling to Karachi and upcountry and stranded at Nawabshah, Padidan and other railway stations faced hardships in hot and humid weather.
A Pakistan Railways official told journalists that Punjab-bound Green Line train had been sent back to Karachi.