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Runaway train travels 80km hitting high speeds without driver in India

The Indian railway authorities are investigating an incident where a freight train was able to travel some 80km without a driver.

The train was pulling 53 wagons full of chip stones when it started rolling downhill along the tracks at Kathua in Jammu, northern India, at one point reaching a top speed of 100km/h before it could be stopped.

The train had stopped for a crew change in Kathua, during which the driver and assistant disembarked, when it began to move downhill. Official sources told The Hindu that the driver may have forgotten to pull the handbrake before deboarding, though this has not been confirmed by the authorities. The driver has not been identified.

According to the Press Trust of India, the freight train passed through five stations before it finally came to a halt in Hoshiarpur district in Punjab.

“The train was stopped after a railway official placed wood blocks on the tracks to stop the train,” an official from Indian Railways told PTI.

The incident took place between 7.25am and 9am local time on Sunday. Local media described the episode as a “near-replay of Hollywood thriller Unstoppable”.

According to a Times of India report, six railway officials have been suspended after the incident.

To minimise potential harm, power to the railway tracks’ overhead cables was cut, and all stations ensured their service tracks were clear to accommodate the runaway train. Officials also redirected other trains away from the runaway engine’s route.

No one was harmed during the incident.

Videos of the train moving at high speed through various stations without the driver have gone viral on Indian social media.

“The diesel locomotive-hauled train rolled downhill towards Pathankot after its drivers paused for a tea break at Kathua station, inadvertently leaving the engine running,” an unidentified official source was quoted as saying by Times of India.

“Efforts to stop the train proved futile initially. It covered around 80km and was stopped by a steep gradient in Unchi Bassi (Punjab).”