Three trains jumped off the tracks and another derailment was averted on Thursday in Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi and Maharashtra within a span of nine hours, the latest in a string of such incidents which saw the exit of Suresh Prabhu as railway minister in the Cabinet reshuffle last Sunday.
Luckily, barring injury to a passenger in the mishap in the national capital, no casualties were reported in other incidents.
The first derailment occured at 6:25 am when seven coaches of the Jabalpur-bound Shaktipunj Express went off the tracks near the Obra Dam station in UP's Sonbhadra district.
Within hours, at around 11:45 pm, the Ranchi-Delhi Rajdhani Express derailed near Minto bridge in the national capital, leaving one person injured. These were folowed by yet another derailment of a goods train in Maharashtra's Khandala at 3:55 pm, railway officials said.
An accident was averted after locals spotted a fracture in a track between Farrukhabad and Fatehgarh in UP, minutes before the Kalindi Express was scheduled to pass the place, officials said in Farrukhabad.
Ironically, these mishaps occurred on a day Piyush Goyal, the new railway minister, chaired a high-level meeting with railway board officials to discuss ways for ensuring safe operation of trains.
The spate of derailments over the past few weeks has raised concerns over the safety of railway operations despite large-scale overhaul of the infrastructure of the public sector transporter in the last couple of years.
Railway ministry officials said that Thursday's derailments did not result in any major damage or casualties as all of them were approaching stations and were travelling at slow speed.
"We are upping our efforts to stop such incidents. In these cases also, our officials took immediate measures to make sure that the passengers do not suffer. We cleared the tracks quickly and the minister has issued instructions to officials to probe the matter," said railway spokesperson Anil Saxena.
Saxena said while the Shaktipunj incident occurred at around 6:25 in the morning, the passengers were off to Jabalpur by 7:28 am.
The hattrick of derailments are the first since Goyal shifted to Rail Bhavan after the Cabinet recast. Suresh Prabhu, his predecessor, had reportedly offered to step down taking moral responsibility for two previous accidents.
On August 20, 14 coaches of the high-speed Kalinga-Utkal Puri Haridwar Express had derailed in Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar district, killing at least 23 people and leaving scores injured. The train was on its way to Haridwar from Puri.
Three days later, nine coaches of the Delhi-bound Kaifiyat Express had derailed in the Auraiya district of Uttar Pradesh after it collided with a dumper, which had strayed on to the tracks, leaving around 100 passengers injured.