At least 14 people, including two children, were killed and two others injured on Saturday when a speeding train rammed into an overloaded motorcycle rickshaw at an unmanned railway crossing near Khanpur village in Sheikhupura district.
The wheels of the rickshaw – which was carrying 16 passengers -- were caught in the tracks and the vehicle soon rolled over to one side just as the Karakoram Express was pulling in. The train, heading from Karachi to Lahore, sped through the crossing in the precincts of Factory Area police station and smashed into the rickshaw.
Four injured passengers including Rabia, 6, Shazia Bibi, 40, and an unidentified young girl were shifted to Lahore after receiving first aid. One of the injured died on the way to Lahore, while another passed away in the hospital.
Rescue 1122 teams lead by Emergency Officer Dr Azam arrived at the site, confirmed the number of dead and collected remains of passengers whose bodies were crushed in the accident.
Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique ordered an inquiry committee to probe the incident and draw up recommendations to avert such accidents in the future. The committee will be headed by Mian Maqsood Ali, chief operating superintendent Pakistan Railways. Mian Muhammad Arshad from Pakistan Railway, Senior Superintendant of Railway Police Robin Yameen, Districts Police Officer and District Coordination Officer Sheikhpura were named as members of the committee.
The committee has been asked to present a report within 24 hours.
The minister warned that if any railway employee is found guilty of negligence, he or she will not be spared. He later announced Rs500,000 as compensation for each victim.
The minister acknowledged that it was both the federal and provincial government’s fault that the vehicle had gone past the unmanned railway crossing. “The loss of 14 lives due to the rickshaw driver’s negligence is a tragedy,” he said.
The minister revealed that over 2,000 out of more than 3,783 crossings were unmanned in the country.
A survey will be conducted soon and unmanned level crossings will be abolished or signals will be installed to ensure the safety of passer-bys.
“We should now stop accusing each other, and collectively ponder over a solution to avoid such a tragedy in future,” Rafiq said.
He also pointed out that the rickshaw driver had packed too many passengers into his vehicle.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2013.