how technology can help improve the safety of indian railways

The tragic accident at Kanpur, where at least 146 people lost their lives on November 20, 2016, has brought back sordid memories of years when accidents of such stature were commonplace in India. However, it is being expected that train journeys in India could become safer in the days ahead. Recently, scientists at IIT Kharagpur have come up with a new tool that can be used to create electronic interlocking systems that can help trains from not colliding with each other. The Computer Science and Engineering Department of the said IIT has come up with the tool suite.

Collaboration Creation and Further Details

The department has collaborated with Indian Railways’ Service Improvement Group (SIG) and Research, Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO) in order to create the device. Professor Pallab Dasgupta, who headed the research, has stated that any mistake in the logic-related application of interlocking systems could have deadly results and this is where the system can come in and play an important role by reducing the chance of such errors. Professor Dasgupta has stated that in the new approach, the layout of a yard is used in the form of reference to automatically create security measures.

Lack of Sufficient Safety Features in 80% of Railway Coaches

In light of the abovementioned incident, Suresh Prabhu has stated that strictest possible action will be taken against the ones guilty for the entire incident. The accident will also be checked from the newest forensic and technical viewpoints. In fact, the Union Railways Minister has also stated in the Lok Sabha that the government will speed up the process of replacing old coaches that lack enough features to deal with crashes. It is also expected that this is where they will face a big problem. Almost 80% of the coaches in India do not have such facilities.

These coaches are products of the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) – one that produces the outmoded varieties. The factory is located in the vicinity of Perambur, close to Chennai and happens to be one of the leading coach production factories. These coaches are made using mild steel, which in spite of being heavier than stainless steel is still incapable of saving passengers during collisions. At present, the Indian Government is looking to use coaches from Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB). As of now, there are 60,000 coaches and approximately 10,000 of them are LHB coaches. These coaches are hardier than the ICF coaches.

How is India Planning to Stop These Accidents?

India has also established a partnership with Thales, one of the top companies in the domain of transport, in order to bring an end to rail crashes and accidents. Thales is supposed to install train protection warning systems on section between Basin Bridge and Arakkonam. India wishes to create a network that will be free of train accidents by 2020 and this is a part of that aim. India has the third biggest rail network in the world. It covers at least 115,000 km in distance, and has 7112 stations and 131,200 railway bridges.

Every day, around 23 million passengers use trains as a means of transport. In fact, between 2014 and 2015, at least eight billion people were transported by Indian Railways. However, the sole operator has not been able to keep up its maintenance and improvement work in accordance with the level of expectation. The lack of investment – one of the major reasons in this case – has now assumed chronic proportions. This has led to infrastructure becoming poor and the railways has lost plenty of money as well. This has also led to the deaths of thousands of people.

Government’s Steps in This Regard

As may be gleaned from a look at the railway budget, safety of railways is one issue where plenty of concern has been expressed in the governmental circles. It is generally accepted that human mistakes play a major part behind such incidents. This is why the government has placed significant importance in recruiting employees for the Group-D cadre. The Railway Recruitment Boards across the country are supposed to take in at least 20,000 employees in these positions in the current year and they are supposed to be trained properly so that they become more efficient.

Railways appears to be pretty determined to get better continuously as far as safety-oriented training is concerned. In order to make this happen, the zonal training centres, central engineering training centres, and supervisory training centres across the country are being upgraded properly. The government is also preparing disaster management modules and is supposed to spend in the region of INR 41 crores in this regard.

Anti-Collision Devices

ACDs are an important part of the efforts being taken by the Indian Government to stop the devastating railway accidents. They were used as part of a pilot project that covered 1,736 km in the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) segment. During the initial trials various technical and operational problems were faced and authorities were unable to resolve them owing to limitations in their design. This is why, after the initial stage it was assumed that these devices would not be used any more. Indian Railways has now decided to come up with Automated Train Protection (ATP) as an alternative to the ACDs.

It is presently looking at systems such as Train Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) and Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) as possible alternatives in this regard.

What Exactly Are Anti-Collision Devices?

This network has been developed by Rajaram Bojji and patented later on by the Konkan Railways Corporation Limited (KRCL). It works primarily on positioning updates provided by GPS. In this system, information is exchanged by way of radio frequency transmissions so that automatic brakes can be initiated and collisions can be prevented.

When an ACD brake is applied it can bring the concerned train’s speed down to 15 km/h. When two trains are on tracks next to each other they get messages from the ACDs on the other train. This is how possible accidents can be averted.

Successful Tests of TCAS

On November 8, 2016 the national government tested the TCAS system successfully near Hyderabad. This technology is based on a combination of radio frequency and GPS. It can apply brakes even without pilots as soon as it is able to find out another train – moving and stationery both – on the same track. For this system to work, some electronic gadgets need to be installed in the trains, along the tracks, and in the stations. This technology has been created by RDSO alongwith HBL Power Systems Ltd., a private firm based in Hyderabad. This successful test would no doubt provide a great fillip to the Indian Government in its efforts to stop such incidents.

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