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Tourist train was travelling too fast before crash in which South Shields gran died

Joan Nichols died when the tourist train she was travelling on in India was derailed.
Joan Nichols died when the tourist train she was travelling on in India was derailed.

A tourist train which derailed in India, killing a South Shields gran and another woman, was going too fast, an inquest has heard.

Joan Nichols, 71, from South Shields, died on September 12, 2015, when the narrow-gauge train on which she was a passenger came off the track in northern India.

It was just five minutes into the journey between Kalka and the Himalyan town of Shimla when it came off the tracks.

At an inquest at Sheffield Coroner's Court, witnesses said they were surprised at how fast the train, chartered by York-based Great Railway Journeys, was being driven.

Passenger Ian Calder told the hearing: “We quickly became concerned at the speed it was travelling at.”

The so-called 'toy train' only just managed to safely navigate the first bend it approached, he added, and then the front two carriages came off the rails.

Retired dinner lady Mrs Nichols, from Redwell Grove, Marsden, was killed, along with another British tourist, Loraine Tonner, 55, from Sheffield.

Mrs Nichols' husband John, 72, was also injured in the accident.

An interim safety report by Indian rail authorities calculated the train must have been travelling at speeds in excess of 40km per hour when it came off the tracks - the legal limit is 25km/hour.

Its speedometer stopped working about 20 minutes before the journey began, and an alternative method for measuring speed - using the distance between telegraph poles as an indicator - was not used, the report added.

Coroner Christopher Dorries delivered a narrative conclusion on the deaths of both women.

He said: “They died in India on September 12, 2015, of injuries received when the narrow-gauge train on which they were travelling derailed.”

Mrs Nichols, a grandmother of five, worked as a dinner lady in South Shields until her retirement, after which she devoted much of her time to volunteer work.

She and her husband were on the third day of the 'trip of a lifetime' when the tragedy occurred.