In an unfortunate accident at midnight of 9th and 10th December 2017, a herd of wild elephants came in front of 15617 Guwahati – Naharlagun Donyi Polo Express at Km 135 between Balipara and Dhalaibeel stations of Rangiya Division of N. F. Railway. The area is not known for elephant movements and is at least four kilometres away from notified elephant corridors. The nearest such elephant corridor notified by the State Forest Department are at Km 131 and Km 144 where speed of all trains are routinely controlled and drivers are advised to be on alert.
The herd of elephants entered the railway track by breaking barriers at a level crossing, but by such time the train was already in the section and it was impossible to stop the train. The driver and co-driver of the train involved in the accident showed remarkable presence of mind, and as soon as they spotted the herd of elephants they reduced the speed of the train without compromising safety of the passengers as sudden and excessive braking could have resulted in derailment of the train. However, despite all efforts, the train knocked down five elephants which were killed.
It may be mentioned that a group of railway and forest officials was created on a social media platform sometimes back for sharing information on movements of wild elephants near railway track. However, there was no information on sighting of wild elephants in the group before the accident. Following the unfortunate accident, Rangiya Division has unilaterally imposed a speed restriction of non-stop 30 kmph at the site of accident.
It may be mentioned that even if there have been movement of elephant herds in non corridor areas, railway has put in place mechanisms for monitoring of elephant movement working jointly with forest department by which many eminent dashing have been avoided.