Railways Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique said on Monday that significant evidence was now available in support of the assessment that the military train had derailed several feet before the Channawan Bridge where its engine and four coaches fell into the Chenab River leaving 19 people dead.
He was addressing a press conference at the Railway Headquarters.
Rafique said the investigation team had found nuts and bolts believed to have come off the train at the track 945 feet away from the bridge. However, he asked the media to refrain from speculation about the incident and wait for the report of a joint committee probing the matter.
The minister said the inquiry committee had sought more time to complete the probe. “We expect them to wrap up the inquiry by Thursday,” he said. He said the committee had been asked not to leave out any possibility. “They’re considering the possibility of terrorists’ involvement in the incident as well,” he said.
Earlier, Rafique expressed displeasure over reports in the media that the bridge had been deemed unfit for use in a 2008 report compiled by the Pakistan Railways. He said Channawan Bridge was not among the 159 bridges mentioned in the report on rehabilitation of railways infrastructure nation-wide. He said 109 of these bridges had been rehabilitated and work was underway on the remaining 50 bridges. “They would also be fit for use in a year,” he said. He said there were 13,959 bridges overseen by the PR in the country.
Rafique said the same track had been used by the Pakistan Express an hour before the accident. “The [Pakistan Express] train crossed the Channawan Bridge at a speed of 65 kilometres an hour,” he said.
Rafique said initial reports suggested that the military train was speeding when the accident took place. He said there was a ‘stop dead’ point 26 km before the bridge. However, the train did not stop there.
Rafique said the driver had been in the profession for 36 years. “He took over the engine at Faisalabad,” he said. The inquiry committee had summoned for questioning the driver who brought the train from Pannu Aqil to Faisalabad, he said. “The committee has already interviewed an army official and an assistant driver present in the locomotive when the accident took place,” he said.
The locomotive had been bought from the United States in 1967. It was rehabilitated and certified fit for use for another 15 years in 2003. It had covered 1.4 million kilometres from 2003 to date.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2015.
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