KOLKATA: Efforts to save wild elephants from being run over by trains seems to be moving in the right direction. On Thursday night, South Eastern Railway (SER) stopped movement of all trains In the Rourkela — Jharsuguda section of the Chakradharpur Division for 45 minutes to allow nearly 22 pachyderms to cross the tracks that pass through an elephant corridor in the Sundargarh district of Odisha. The speed of trains that started moving after this was restricted along a seven km stretch.
“Around 10 pm on Thursday, the Chakradharpur Division received an urgent message from the forest department of Odisha regarding a herd of 22 elephants spotted close to the tracks between the Kalunga and Kansbahal stations. The 12151 Lokmanya Tilak – Samarsata Express was passing that spot at that time. The loco pilot was immediately contacted over the walkie-talkie and asked to proceed with extreme caution in ‘whistle blowing continuously’ mode. As soon as this train was out of that stretch, all movement was suspended for the next 45 minutes till the forest department sent us clearance,” said Soumitra Majumdar, chief passenger transportation manager, SER.
According to him, the stretch is a busy one and several trains had to be ‘controlled’ at stations till clearance was received. “Even after 10.45pm, we issued a speed restriction of 50 km per hour on trains passing the stretch till 6 am on Friday. At 50 km per hour, a loco pilot can apply brakes and stop the train if he picks up the silhouette of a jumbo close to the tracks. Normally loco pilots do not overspeed when there are speed restrictions as the penalty is severe,” Majumdar said.
In 2013, there have been two elephant run-over cases in SER. One of these occurred on October 14 between the Khemasuli and Sardiha stations in West Bengal. An elephant was found dead on the Up line at 6.42 pm. A herd of elephants were surrounding the carcass, blocking both the Up and Down tracks. On November 26, 2013, the Howrah-bound Geetanjali Express hit an elephant between the Sagra and Sonakhan stations in Odisha.
“We are taking extra effort to ensure better co-ordination with the forest departments regarding elephant crossings. We are taking adequate precautionary steps to ensure that elephants have a safe passage and these majestic animals are not harmed or hit by trains. Regular meetings are held with forest department officials, especially in Rourkela where this problem exists,” the CPTM said.