Five men with guns and knives stormed the B2 coach of Delhi-bound GT Express on Friday night and stopped the train from Chennai in jungles by pulling the emergency alarm chain near Keetham on Agra-Mathura route.
And, for half an hour they ran amok among passengers, threatening and hitting them while the police in the train (may have been sleeping) were not even aware of the mayhem.
The GRP (government railway police) unit on the train came to know of looting and assault only when the robbed passengers stopped the train at Mathura junction. The passengers demanded immediate action and did not allow the train to proceed to Delhi for an hour.
The robbers may have got in from adjacent general compartment and began looting passengers after the train left Keetham station. They got down just before Farah station by pulling the chain. In between, they took jewellery from women, snatched ear pieces from few of them, took lakhs of rupees and mobile phones from men and women.
They beat up men and assaulted women when some passengers tried to resist them. One passenger told media that the robbers wore some kind of mask and closed the shutters of the bogie. Another passenger said that the train left Raja ki Mandi (near Agra) at 3 am and the robbery took place after 3 am.
One of the oldest train service
The 12615 GT Express or the Grand Trunk Express is one of the oldest train services on Indian railways. When introduced in 1929, the train ran between Peshawar in Pakistan and Mangalore. Now, it covers the distance of 2,186 kilometres in 35 hrs 35 mins with 38 halts between Chennai and New Delhi.
According to the train's regular schedule, it touches Agra at 2.45 am and takes about an hour to reach Mathura. The Agra-Delhi section is very busy and is double-line route. It is strange that neither the police or the railway authorities noticed the unscheduled stoppage of a major train.
How does the emergency alarm chain work?
The alarm chain in a passenger coach is designed to create a break in the continuity of the brake pipes (whether vacuum or air brakes), immediately resulting in a loss of brake pressure (or vacuum) and thereby causing the train brakes to be applied. With vacuum brakes, a clappet valve is provided, which is released by the pulling of the alarm chain; with air brakes, there is a similar passenger emergency valve which can vent the brake pipe to the air. Either way, the train comes to a halt. To indicate the bogie from where the chain was pulled, a flag like lever moves up. It is at the edge of a bogie.
But the modern alarms function differently. When the alarm chain or handle is pulled, a warning signal beeps in drivers cabin and switches on a two-way intercom between the driver and the bogie. This way there would not be a stoppage unless the driver knows the reason for sounding the alarm. May be this type of system could have saved GT passengers.