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Fatal Indian Train Derailment Puts Country's Safety Record In Spotlight

Lawyers Who Secured Settlement For Woman Injured In Previous Incident Demand Action


The fatal derailment on India’s Kalka to Shimla line this weekend is further evidence that a review into railway safety in the country is vital, according to specialist lawyers who secured a settlement for a woman hurt in a similar incident three years ago.

Two tourists died on Saturday (September 12th) during the chartered trip organised by York-based tour company Great Rail Journeys which involved a journey on the celebrated railway line in the Northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. 

It is understood that a number of carriages from the historic ‘toy train’ de-railed and, as well as causing the deaths of two passengers, there are reports that nine other passengers including six Britons were also injured.

Specialist lawyers at Irwin Mitchell’s International Personal Injury team have vast experience of helping the victims of transport disasters around the world obtain justice and access the vital financial support needed to fund their recovery and their future. 

The team previously successfully represented British woman Lesley Mae Oakley, who was seriously injured in an accident in a similar narrow-gauge train on the Kalka to Shimla railway line, as well as successfully representing many other victims of transport accidents in India over the past 20 years. 

Clive Garner, Partner and head of Irwin Mitchell’s International Personal Injury team, said: 

Expert Opinion
“We are very concerned to hear of this latest tragedy on India’s railways.

“It is clear that the priority at present must be to ensure that every victim receives the treatment and support they need and that the families of those who their lost loved ones are provided with all the help and support they require at this most difficult time.

“A thorough investigation into the cause of the accident is essential. While there have been early reports that the train derailed because it was travelling at an excessive speed, the full surrounding circumstances will need to be carefully considered before any conclusions can be drawn.

“Speed may have been a key factor, but other issues including the condition of the track and the rolling stock itself will also need to be carefully analysed. As a narrow gauge railway operating at high altitude, special care should have been taken to ensure that it was safely maintained and operated.”
Clive Garner, Partner

Lesley Mae Oakley, 66, from Maidstone, suffered a fractured pelvis, bladder damage and severe bruising when she was thrown from a narrow gauge ‘toy train’ as it pulled away from a station at Borag in October 2012. Irwin Mitchell helped her and her husband secure a five-figure settlement from tour operator Trailfinders Ltd regarding the incident.

John Oakley, Lesley’s husband, recalls: “The reports of this incident have brought back a lot of memories for us both – it was a truly awful incident on what was meant to be a holiday of a lifetime.

“With this in mind, we were so horrified to learn of further problems on the route. We have long thought that practices on the line should be reviewed to ensure safety is the top priority and seeing news of this terrible tragedy only emphasises that for us. 

“It is vital that authorities do what they can to ensure the wellbeing of passengers always comes first.”

Expert Opinion
“India has an extensive railway network, but unfortunately its safety record is well below the level that we would like to see.

“So far this year alone, more than 80 passengers and crew have been killed and hundreds have been injured in accidents on India’s railways. A number of fatal accidents have been caused by the derailment of trains and questions have to be asked about the adequacy of the railway infrastructure and the culture of safety across the country’s railway network.

“Those who have been injured and the families of those who have been killed in this latest accident on the Kalka to Shimla line will want to know what caused this terrible accident and will no doubt hope that lessons will be learned which will reduce the risk of another accident like this happening in the future.”
Clive Garner, Partner

As well as their international expertise, Irwin Mitchell also represented passengers and the families of those killed in other railway disasters including the Ladbroke Grove incident which left 30 dead and 300 injured, and the Hatfield disaster in 2000 in which a GNER Inter-city 225 train was de-railed, killing four passengers and injuring many more. 

The Hatfield disaster lead to a major review of rail safety in the UK and prompted significant improvements in rail infrastructure.

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in major rail accidents.

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